Playing in a foreign country over the summer, with and against some of the top high school freshmen and sophomores in the world, helped hammer home the point for Sarah Snyder.
Being a standout scorer wasn’t enough for the Clovis West High water polo player. She needed to be dominant at the defensive end, too.
And that’s what Snyder became after making the U.S. Women’s Cadet team and getting the opportunity to train and compete in Hungary.
“I was good at defense before I went to that camp,” Snyder said. “But that’s where I really started embracing the fact that defense wins games. I had to make my defense better for the sake of my team.”
Snyder’s Golden Eagles were upset in the Central Section Division I finals in 2013 after entering as the top seed.
But with a more well-rounded game courtesy of the training she received with the national team, Snyder blossomed into an all-around force who led Clovis West to the school’s record 12th section crown. Snyder scored once and played solid defense as the Golden Eagles defeated Clovis 5-4 in the final and is The Bee’s Girls Water Polo Player of the Year.
“The best thing about winning a Valley championship is knowing that everything you’ve worked for just fell perfectly into place,” Snyder said, “and that you accomplished what you wanted to accomplish.”
Golden Eagles coach Scott Torosian said Snyder’s improved defense in adddition to being one of the section’s most dangerous scorers helped Clovis West go 24-7 while sharing the Tri-River Athletic Conference title and earning the top seed for the playoffs. At times, she was the one called on to shut down an opponent’s top offensive threat,
“That’s not something I would have asked her to do last season,” Torosian said. “I wouldn’t have even thought about it. But this year, I didn’t hesitate to put her on the best player on the other end.”
“You could tell she learned a lot from playing overseas. It surprised me at times how much her defense had grown this year.”
And offense has never been a problem for Snyder, a junior.
The three-time Bee All-Star was named the TRAC MVP after scoring 106 goals to go with 37 assists, 76 steals and 62 ejections drawn. She has 241 goals, 102 assists, 166 steals and 119 ejections drawn in her career, numbers that put her on pace to join the likes of Tristin Baxter, Lauren Martin and Mary Brooks among the best players in the history of a program that has reached 18 consecutive section finals.
“Other teams tried to key on stopping her,” Torosian said. “At times she was even triple-teamed, and she still managed to score big-time goals. We don’t go 9-1 in the TRAC or win Division I without her.”