The APS Knights water polo team, comprised of athletes from Grady, North Atlanta and students from several private schools, started a season of redemption after a winless regular season a year ago.
APS faced Collins Hill and Greater Atlanta Christian, defeating Collins Hill 13-7 and Greater Atlanta Christian 14-10.
“Starting out 2-0 after a 0-12 season is a large morale boost, which pushes us to try and stay undefeated,” junior Zode Compton said.
Last season was difficult for the Knights. After the loss of several seniors, the team knew that success would not come easy. Though coach Catherine Hume said “this is a natural part of any team,” much of last year was spent reorganizing and readjusting. The coaches also found themselves in a difficult position.
Last year was the first season the APS team was in the Division 1 category, facing larger, more experienced players, and according to coach Stuart Sheldon they were “the youngest team in the league and lost a lot.”
Coming into the new season, however, the Knights seemed confident that their ability and dedication would secure favorable odds for future games. Despite early struggles, the Knights ended the season strong.
“It is the hard work of the kids during the season and off season that got us here,” Sheldon said.
This hard work was not only showcased during the coed games, but the girls team also had a successful game on Aug. 12. They defeated last year’s state champion, Collins Hill 11-10.
“We were winning most of the game,” junior Molly Haynes said. “After the first quarter, we knew we had it.”
This tenacity is credited to the “strong players and cohesiveness of the team.” Players are not judged on experience. The returning players are more than happy to assist their rookie counterparts.
“I expect great things because everyone is nice and talented,” new player Sophie Gotham said. “I’m really confident in the team. They are wonderful and everyone is so warm.”
Though Gotham is new to both water polo and the APS team, she sees the leadership skills her teammates posses, saying “they are born leaders, and if they can lead the group well, they will lead them to success.” Many of these “natural leaders” had the privilege to play in California in the Junior Olympics during the summer.
Grace Sherman, Molly Haynes, Maddie Ta, Claire Wheeler and Jaime Matherson competed in California. After placing second in the Southeast during the qualifiers, the five committed to the trip to the West Coast. Though the boys team was not able to compete in California, it placed fourth in the qualifiers.
Sending five girls to the Junior Olympics brought publicity to the team and made the APS Knights proud to say that they were the first team from Georgia to send players to compete at this national event.
“The experience was amazing,” Haynes said. “Our team will excel because of national experience and from playing against high intensity teams.”
Things are looking up for the APS Knights. A season of struggle gave way to growth and reevaluation.
“Whatever success we have is built on the backs of the teams before it,” Sheldon said. “I am excited for the future generation of water polo players, and I am excited for the season.”