Men’s and Women’s Water Polo both undefeated in Big 8 action

Male waterpolo swimmer passing ball.
Credit: Herb Decker

The Sierra College men's and women's water polo teams are off to a combined 8-0 start in the Big 8 Conference and both squads are Top 10 in the CCCWPCA polls.

The women's team is 13-3 and are currently on a six-match win streak behind great performances by freshmen Bailey Hollick and Hailey Hensley. Hollick transferred from Western Springs College in Auckland, New Zealand and has scored 33 goals in her last six matches. She is second in the state with 76 goals this season. 

The Wolverines have eight freshmen and six sophomores on the team.

"I think we are starting to come on as we have a fairly young team, and it just takes a bit for it to start coming together," Wolverines women's coach Scott Decker said. "We have a lot of ability, and depth, so we have potential to be very good at the end of the season if we just keep progressing. Our sophomores, especially our three team captains (Bre Pierce, Mary Downs, and Alyssa Agustin), have been phenomenal at teaching and helping our freshmen learn the way we do things, build our culture, and help guide them to help us be successful."

Freshman goalie and Davis alumna Kappa Martin is tied for third in the state with 10 wins and has 81 saves on the season including 28 in her last three matches alone. 

Sierra leads the Big 8 by a game and a half over Delta, who the Wolverines beat 22-10 on Wednesday, and will face American River at home next Wednesday. The conference tournament starts on Nov. 2.

"Wednesday we beat Delta, who we were tied with for first place in the conference, so that will help us secure the number one seed going into the conference tournament, which was one of our goals," Decker said. "Winning conference, and the NorCal Championship were two of our goals for the season, and we are on our way to doing that hopefully. Also, qualifying for the State Championships, and having a chance to win a State Championship was our third goal for the season. We have to take everything one day/game at a time, but we are definitely heading in the right direction."

On the men's side, Sierra has won five of its last six matches including two wins in the Bruce Watson Invitational last Saturday. The Wolverines have been led by sophomores Chris Nihart and Hank Wildenradt who have combined for 70 of the teams' 179 goals. Wildenradt also has eight assists while Nihart has seven. The two played against each other in high school with Wildenradt competing at Rocklin and Nihart playing at Granite Bay.

"I have played with Chris for about two or three years now, so we both kind of know what the other one is thinking and what they are going to do," Wildenradt said. "Our communication is good, any playing on the same side of the pool helps each other because the defense can't take any breaks while we have the ball. It has been a lot of fun leading the team with Chris after high school because we get to work together instead of trying to outplay the other."

In goal, Samuel Cortez has 49 saves while Brendan Craft has 34. Freshman center forward Petar Markovic is also stepping up with 22 goals this season.

Sierra faces American River on Wednesday at home before traveling to Biola University on Thursday. The Big 8 Conference tournament will start on Nov. 2 at American River.

"My biggest goal this season is to win the Big 8 Conference," Wildenradt said. "I've got other goals too, but I think it's important to focus on the task at hand before talking about NorCal or the State as a whole."