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The City Journals

Bengal Water Polo Team Treads Toward Another Hopeful Championship Season

Jul 29, 2016 09:16AM ● By Sarah Almond

Though the Bengal team trains as a coed group, girls and boys compete separately during fall league and the high school season. Weekly scrimmages against each other during the summer, however, help the team members stay conditioned and in shape for the approaching season.

By Sarah Almond

Cottonwood Heights, Utah - For many players on the Bengal Water Polo Team, there is no such thing as an “off season.” With the official high school season ending the first of June and Fall League beginning in mid-August, summer provides the perfect opportunity for players to practice skills, condition hard, and stay in shape.

“These kids are really dedicated,” said Ashley Wilcox, head coach for the team’s summer league.. “I think they understand the importance of staying in the water and staying conditioned and in shape. Once you’re out of shape it’s hard to get back in.”

Wilcox, who has been coaching water polo for two years, was hired to coach the Bengals in January 2016.

“It’s important that the players stay in the water and stay conditioned,” Wilcox said.

While swimming is the group’s primary form of conditioning, they also focus on several different drills to practice and improve ball handling and shooting skills.

“Water polo takes a lot more than just swimming,” Wilcox said. “You’re swimming; you’re having to handle the ball; you have to know the strategies; you’re treading water against someone else; there’s a lot of physical contact and you have to be prepared to be aggressive.”

It’s facets like this that make water polo appealing to players like 16-year-old Olivia Huntzinger, who has been playing the sport for over nine years.

“For me, water polo is a lot more exciting than swimming,” Huntzinger said. “I love having to come up with a strategy. You have to use teamwork too, which I love. I like to know that my team has my back and it’s not all on me. It’s just so much fun.”

The Bengals practice three times a week during the summer on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, putting in more than six hours of conditioning a week. Once fall league begins the second week of August, players on the Bengals team will more than double their training by practicing nearly 15 hours each week.

“Summer is a blast because we still need to focus, but it’s not quite as intense,” Huntzinger said. “We can play music and we scrimmage against each other a lot in the summer which is awesome; it’s always fun to play against your teammates.”

During the summer training season, the Bengals focus primarily on perfecting skills and staying in shape. However, when the fall league begins in the second week of August, the team will use their training every Saturday during games and tournaments held at Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center.

“In the summer we don’t have games, so it’s really fun when fall and high school season comes because games are the best part of water polo, in my opinion,” Huntzinger said. “I’m excited for the whole team to come back so we can start working for high school season because we all want to win State again.”

While an average of 15 players commit to training during the summer and year-round, the Bengal team typically has between 30 and 40 girls and boys that make up the official group.

“The summer can be pretty hard just because a ton of families are on vacation and we have some girls who are away doing the Junior Olympics,” Wilcox said. “But when we have everyone here we are a really strong team.”

The Bengals girl’s team won the State Championship in Spring 2016 and the boy’s team has owned the same title for the past two years.

“Everyone works really hard,” Huntzinger said while talking about what factors have contributed in making the team State Champions. “Ashley became one of our coaches this past year and that has also been helpful. And we really put our all into each game.”

 The Fall League begins August 15 and runs through the end of October. Children in grades third through twelfth who are interested in joining the Bengals Water Polo Team are encouraged to register at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center at 7500 South 2700 East Cottonwood Heights, Utah 84121.