An experienced girls water polo team — driven by a competitive spirit and a winning legacy — is off to a strong start at Clovis High School.
Twelve seniors on a roster of 20 helped the Cougars achieve a 13-4 record through early October. In the first round of games in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, Clovis High swam to victories over Buchanan, Central, Clovis East and Clovis North.
As usual, Clovis West High School stands as Clovis’ biggest challenge.
In each of the last seven years, the two schools have met for the Central Section Division 1 Championship. Clovis has won four times — including in 2015.
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“I think we have a strong chance to do well this year,” said head coach Noah Minton. “But there’s always going to be competition right there with us. So it will be exciting.”
Clovis West has both an experienced team and an excellent coach in Scott Torosian, Minton said.
Clovis is scheduled to play at Clovis West on Oct. 11, and the Cougars will host the Eagles on Nov. 2.
Those games are a combination of fun, excitement and nerves. “That’s just how it is,” Minton said.
At the beginning of each season, he prepares his teams by having them play in tournaments, where they can gain experience in teamwork. Because of the Cougars’ past success, they carry the expectation of doing well, Minton said:
“All I ever ask them to do is play their hardest and try not to worry about the rest.”
Assessing his seasoned team, Minton said many of his seniors have played on varsity since their sophomore or freshman years. “They’re so competitive. They don’t do anything but 100 percent when they’re playing,” he said.
Minton said his challenge is to keep the team working together and not let frustration with one another or officials interfere with their play. “You’re going to have those rough game situations where things are not going to go your way,” he said. “The real challenge is how you step up and deal with it.”
Several factors have contributed to Clovis High developing a strong water polo program. Coaches have encouraged players to develop skills at off-season camps and through Olympic development teams and other programs. Parents also have to “buy in” to that kind of commitment, said Minton, who has been with Clovis High’s water program for the last decade.
In addition, starting players early helps the program.
For seven years, Minton has run coed camps for students in third through sixth grades. When those students reach Clark Intermediate School, they have some knowledge of the game and continue to develop on water polo teams in seventh and eighth grades, Minton said.
“That feeds into Clovis High, and it’s huge,” he added.
Minton started playing in seventh grade at Alta Sierra Intermediate School. “I was just trying out a new thing,” he said. “It gave me a passion — something I could work hard for and see results, and that just drove me to keep on trying to improve. It was a great experience overall.”
He became a goalie in eighth grade and continued at Buchanan High School. Minton played on the Bears’ 1999 Central Section championship team, and he competed in water polo for two years at the University of California, San Diego before he was injured.
Minton, who teaches math at Clovis High, now plays Masters’ water polo in the off season. “For fun,” he said.
Assistant Coach: Hilary Whelan