Girls Water Polo Season Preview


Coming off a quarterfinal loss in last year’s Central Coast Section (CCS) playoffs, the driven Palo Alto High School girls’ varsity water polo team is hoping to translate their past success, and strengthen their weaknesses, in the coming season.

With a reopened pool and new sports facility, the Peery Family Center, the girls feel that this season presents a new and interesting opportunity.

“Over the past few years, we have had to do a lot of traveling,” Estelle Martin (‘19) said. “With a pool of our own, I feel like the practices can be more focused and productive.”

Last season saw the loss of four extremely talented seniors, and there is no doubting that this has altered team morale. Hollie Chiao (‘18), however, is confident in her teammates.

“We had a really productive season last year. […] With that being said, we did lose a lot of seniors,” Chiao said. “However, I always try and tell the girls not to think about that. We are our own team and capable of great things.”

Last season saw the loss of more than just a few seniors, but a coach as well. Despite being new to the program at Paly, Doug Stotland, the new girls varsity coach, has integrated quickly. He may be new to Paly, but not to the sport, as Stotland has over 20 years of water polo experience. Coach Stotland’s pre-season energy is easily discernable in every practice. He brings passion and intelligence, and has a clear vision for the varsity team.

“We need to get the ball down the pool faster, and we need to have less turnovers getting the ball down the pool,” Stotland said on team improvements. “The third thing is that we need to be more physical.”

The team was able to make instrumental progress throughout the course of “hell week”, where Coach Stotland explained that he is looking for “solid contributions” from each and every person on the team. Hell week has traditionally been a period of intense conditioning, and this year was no different. The girls swam countless laps, perfected their eggbeater, and began to bond as a team, a beloved byproduct of the dreaded week.

Over the first few weeks, Coach Stotland has been working with the junior varsity team as well as the varsity team. Work ethic will be crucial to the junior varsity team this year, as he believes there is great potential if the younger girls can hone their playing skills. Stotland spoke repeatedly of the girls’ passion and energy in the pool.

“We have the most amazing group of freshman –  the most positive set of athletes I have ever seen,” Stotland said. “They are really fast and they never get tired, so I think if they learned some more water polo skills they’re gonna make great contributions.”

Stotland also commented on what traits he values the most in players.

“I would say the two top traits are fearlessness and joy,” Stotland said. “Water polo is the best game and it’s so much fun to play; we’re doing it wrong if it’s not really fun for everybody. And then fearlessness – not afraid to make mistakes, not afraid to confront somebody, not afraid to try something new.”

Back in their home pool and ready to face a season of tough competition, the girls’ water polo teams are looking forward to the next two months. Stotland’s varsity team plays next at home against Mountain View on September 5th.

Be sure to come out and support these fearless Vikes at the pool and track their season on the Viking magazine webpage and social media accounts.