In Water Polo, Scots Grow in the Pool, But Not on the Deck

Second-year program reaches new milestones, needs more athletes to grow the sport

The progress in the pool can be measured in individual development and team accomplishments, even if the participation numbers have Highland Park still treading water.

The Scots reached significant milestones for both boys and girls water polo in their second campaign since the University Interscholastic League began sanctioning the sport in 2022.

“I’m very happy with the success and the progress the players have made. We have a mix of experienced players and new players,” said HP head coach Chris Cullen. “I still need more athletes. I can coach them and teach them what they need to know. I just need them to get in the pool.”

The girls team, in particular, made a splash by doubling their win total from the inaugural season and earning a District 2 championship despite a depleted roster.

For example, in their second-round playoff loss to Hebron, the Lady Scots had just two substitutes — both freshmen who were new to the sport — while their opponents had 8-9 players on deck.

Still, HP was tied at halftime before giving up three counterattack goals and faltering down the stretch.

“We were competitive in a lot of games. We just don’t have the depth and kind of ran out of steam,” Cullen said. “We were battling and making them sweat. They kind of hit the wall.”

The numbers are better on the boys side, although the Scots lost more seniors than they replaced from the 2022 squad that completed an unbeaten regular season. Then, one returning player was lost to a back injury, and another moved away.

That left HP with five sophomore starters in seven spots and caused the elimination of the junior-varsity schedule.

“On the first day of practice, we had to reassess our goals real fast,” said Cullen, whose squad still topped Denton Braswell for its first playoff victory in program history on Oct. 10. “I was pleased with it, considering.”

Cullen is looking at options to spur growth in water polo at the grassroots youth level in the Park Cities. And no experience is necessary. He cites multiple instances of newcomers to the sport who have thrived by the end of their first season.

There is reason for continued optimism despite the growing pains. Top players Jacob Duong and Kylie Williams each will return next year. And hopefully, they will bring more of their classmates with them.

“Kids are looking for opportunities to play a varsity sport. Water polo might be the perfect fit for them,” Cullen said. “It’s just getting the word out there and getting kids to try it.”

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