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Girls water polo squad has versatile lineup

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Upper Arlington senior Julie Dierker is among the top returnees for the girls water polo team. The Bears, who are seeking their fourth consecutive state championship, returned all but two players from last year's team.
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Upper Arlington High School girls water polo coach Dan Peterkoski doesn't believe in physical breaks for his athletes, most of whom he also mentors as the school's girls swimming and diving coach.

But Peterkoski, who is in his 11th season as water polo coach and will enter his 11th year with the swimming team this winter, can't overstate the value of the emotional break that water polo provides from year-round swim training.

"Water polo gives that dynamic where (the swimmers) can stay in the water pretty much year-round," he said.

"Water polo breaks up the monotony of swimming in order to give them an emotional break while not getting physically out of shape."

That the Golden Bears are seeking their fourth consecutive state championship and 14th overall also plays no small part.

UA has returned all but two players from last season, when it went 26-3 and defeated Cincinnati Sycamore 6-3 in the state final.

Senior Mara Egeler and sophomore Emma Griffith have split time in goal, and seniors Julie Dierker, Jamie Krupp, Jenny Smith, Betsy Trace, Rachel Webber, Elizabeth Weldon and Meghan Wilson and junior Gracie Long have seen the most playing time as UA has 27 players on its roster.

Other than goalkeeper, Peterkoski does not assign positions.

"Our game is really a development of speed, good defense and really being able to maintain constant movement, and in order to do that, all six girls in the water have to be able to fill any spot," he said.

UA is 11-0 heading into the Ohio Cup, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 14, and Sunday, Sept. 15, at Thomas Worthington.

The Bears went 4-0 in the Napoleon Invitational on Aug. 16 and 17, defeating Napoleon (9-2), Worthington Kilbourne (8-4), Sylvania (8-3) and Toledo St. Ursula (13-10), and went 3-0 in the Upper Arlington Invitational on Aug. 24, beating Thomas (8-2), Mason (7-4) and Sycamore (9-7).

UA defeated Thomas again, 11-5 on Aug. 28, before going 3-0 in the Milford Invitational on Sept. 7, defeating Mason (5-4), Sycamore (11-1) and Milford (15-9).

The Bears will play Chicago Park and Milford in the Ohio Cup before traveling to Reading, Pa., for the Beast of the East Invitational on Sept. 20 and 21.

"That's our first big target," Peterkoski said. "(The Ohio Cup) will be a great tune-up for us."

Boys team still learning ropes

First-year boys water polo coach Mike de Bear, who led the Kilbourne boys to the 2007 state championship and has been UA's boys swimming coach since 2010, hopes his young team soon will find consistency.

"The range of what we can do game in and game out is pretty extreme. Sometimes we're pretty good, and other times we're not," said de Bear, who replaced Jim Roberts, who resigned as coach after eight seasons. "I've never really had a team like this. Five out of the top nine guys are seeing varsity minutes are freshmen and sophomores, but I think our ceiling is high."

UA won its first state championship since 2009 last year, defeating Sycamore 17-2 in the final to finish 25-4.

The Bears, who finished 25-4, were 8-5 before playing St. Charles on Sept. 11.

UA went 2-2 in the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer Invitational on Aug. 23 and 24, defeating Okemos (Mich.) 11-8 and Toledo St. Francis 11-9 and losing to Ann Arbor Huron 16-3 and Pioneer 8-7.

The Bears went 3-1 in the Ohio Cup held Sept. 7 and 8 at Thomas, beating Chicago Park District (12-10), Napoleon (14-2) and Kilbourne (13-6) before losing to Sycamore (11-10).

Their other wins have come against Cincinnati Princeton (14-10 on Aug. 31), Milford (13-7 on Aug. 31) and New Albany (17-5 on Sept. 4), and their other losses were against Thomas (10-8 on Aug. 28) and Sycamore (12-9 on Aug. 31).

According to de Bear, UA's top players have been seniors Ryan Baas, Zach Newcome and Thomas Trace, juniors Austin Gorski, Corey Miles, Ian Watson, sophomores Ethan Fischer, Nebyat Mamo and Christopher Walker and freshmen Alex Rabe and Drew Wilson.

Rabe and Mamo have split time in goal.

Through nine games, Trace had a team-high 36 goals, followed by Watson (19) and Newcome (7).

"The future's really bright, but we also have three seniors where we want the now to be consistently bright," de Bear said. "We've had some really good games and we've laid some eggs, especially not (being) ready early in games against Sycamore and Thomas. We are very much a work in progress."

Tennis team eyes another OCC title

The girls tennis team was 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 10.

The Bears, who defeated Dublin Coffman 3-2 in a league match Sept. 5 and beat Olentangy Liberty 4-1 in a Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association tournament match Sept. 6, are seeking their 25th consecutive league championship.

UA plays host to Marysville in a league match Thursday, Sept. 12, and concludes league play Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Westland.

Against Coffman, junior Audrey Berger (first singles), sophomore Olivia Kompa (third singles) and senior Beniva Ganther and freshman Anna Reynolds (first doubles) earned wins.

"I'm stressed out every time we play (Coffman)," coach Shawn Stamps said. "It's always close. We need to go through those kinds of matches to learn how to overcome adversity later in the season. Luckily, we've been on the winning side, but they always test us."

With a few exceptions, Berger has been playing first singles. Freshman Kyra Jung has been at second singles, Kompa has been at third singles and Ganther, Reynolds, senior Emily Flitcraft, junior Anna Grumman and freshman Ashley Weeks have shared time at doubles.

"I'm still seeking the right combination there," Stamps said, referring to his doubles teams.

"It's always been a situation where I've made the decision of who will play where the day of the match."

UA will play Grove City or Olentangy in an OTCA third-round match sometime this week. The match must be completed by Saturday, Sept. 14, according to OTCA rules.

Bears seeking gymnastics coach

The gymnastics team is in need of a coach after Abigail Schmidt resigned in late August.

Schmidt, a Texas native who competed at the University of Maryland, coached the Bears for two seasons. According to girls athletics director Jodi Palmer, Schmidt had planned to return for the coming season but was selected to perform in O, a water-themed stage production by Cirque du Soleil. Schmidt wrote on her blog that she will be touring South America.

Interested applicants should contact Palmer at (614) 487-5210 or jpalmer@uaschools.org.

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