Gig Harbor senior Kailee Drugge scored on the Tides’ first possession against the Bainbridge Spartans on Thursday. A few seconds later, the Tides scored again.
Then they scored some more.
In all, freshman Alana Ponce scored five goals, and her sister, Julia, a senior, added four during a 19-1 blowout win at the Gig Harbor High School pool. The Tides led 9-0 after the first period and improved to 5-0 overall.
When Drugge’s first shot went in, there was a sense that it was going to be a long day for the Spartans.
“It was really awesome,” Drugge said of her shot. “Alana set me up for a really good shot, so that was nice.”
The Ponce sisters, despite their age difference, are the team’s stars. In a pool full of good athletes, their unique skill and chemistry stands out.
Outside of the pool, they spend almost all their time together, and that contributes to a high level of understanding while they’re in the water, Julia said.
“She helps me be more helpful to my team,” Julia Ponce said. “(Alana will) tell me, ‘Hey, Julia, move on a drive,’ and I won’t just sit there, I’ll listen to her. She kind of gets me going. I think that’s really good for the team.
“It’s not just me that she’s helping, it’s everybody else. Everybody really likes to listen to her, and she brings a lot of lessons.”
It’s uncommon for a freshman to assume such a leadership role, but Alana Ponce doesn’t lack water polo experience. The sisters have been playing the sport since they were 6.
“It’s something really amazing,” Drugge said of the sisters. “They work really well together and just inspire everyone to be that much better at what we do.”
Gig Harbor head coach Mike Kelly said Julia has been waiting patiently for her sister to arrive at the school, and it’s a special opportunity for them.
“It’s a very special relationship and bond for them to be able to play together,” Kelly said. “They’ve done that for many years together on the club level. But what they do together is really unique and very dynamic for the success of our team.”
Kelly said the sisters inspire the other players to leave their comfort zone, and that leads to moves and shots they normally wouldn’t take. Additionally, their skill frees up valuable opportunities for other players to get open looks at the goal.
“They’ve got a really special chemistry between the two of them, and that really helps ignite the rest of our team,” Kelly said. “You have other athletes like Sarah Anderson and Kailee (Drugge) in there, it really helps them out, because the teams tend to focus defensively on the Ponce sisters. That tends to help other players on the team get free and get shots that we need.”
For the Tides, who have beat their last three opponents by a combined score of 56-14, their biggest goal is to stay focused and improve.
“It’s still a challenge,” Julia Ponce said. “It’s not like we’re slacking off when we play teams. We do try our best. We try our best in practice, and then we bring that to games.”
The blowouts also allow the Tides to rotate in a lot of players from their deep roster, giving everyone valuable playing time.
“It just presents opportunities as a coach to let some other people, who, in tighter games, don’t get that kind of playing time,” Kelly said. “You’ll see in practice how a kid plays, even when it’s against a team where you might be up by 10 goals, it really changes their playing dynamics going against someone who isn’t a teammate.”Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @gateway_jon