LEXINGTON, Va. - With the start of the 2018 water polo season underway this weekend, we sat down with VMI head coach Ryan Pryor to preview the season and provide an outlook for his senior-laden team. Here are his responses:
1. Who are this year’s team captains? What are your expectations of them to lead this team?
Our captains this year are seniors Natalie Rivas (who is a three-time team captain), Catie Berry, and junior Sarah Dolitsky. I’m very pleased with the leadership they’ve displayed so far. I look to the captains to lead by example in terms of their work ethic, attitude and adherence to team expectations. These three have been great in that regard.
2. What is your outlook for your offensive attack?
On the offensive side of things, we’ve been focusing primarily on counter attack, shot selection, and 6on5 (power play) execution. We return a good chunk of our scoring output from last season, with six 25 goal scorers returning (Shelby Barkley, Natalie Rivas, Sarah Dolitsky, Haley Scott, Emma Noble & Sophia DelBondio). I expect continued strong production from that group and I anticipate increased scoring from players like Rebecca Serrano, Emma Perez, and Caroline Wojtas. Freshman Amber Hamil gives a different element offensively as a left-handed shooter and classmate Zoe Salafatinos has the size and strength to be a significant goal scorer for us.
3. How is our defense coming along?
I believe defense will the strength of the team this year. We’ve been focusing on executing our primary defensive principles and, if we can do that consistently, I expect to be very strong on that side of the ball. A big help in that regard is that we return both of our primary center defenders (Emma Noble & Sophia DelBondio) and both of our goalies (Issi French & Catie Berry) from a year ago.
4. Who is this year’s starting goalie? What do you expect from this position?
Issi French will start in the goal, though Catie Berry will see time as well. Through the fall and early season, both Issi and Catie have been looking very good. I feel great about the goalie position this year and that’s a great comfort to have as a coach.
5. How do you feel about the schedule? Conference outlook?
I really like how our schedule lines up this season. I look at it in four segments. First, we have these first nine games out of conference that I believe will prepare us very well for the MAAC. Then, we have the first half of our MAAC schedule where we’ll play all of our league opponents once with a couple non-conference opponents sprinkled in. At the midway point of the league schedule, we head to California for 5 days which I believe will give us a great chance to face some strong competition and make any necessary adjustments before finishing up with the second half of the MAAC schedule. The MAAC looks to be stronger than it’s ever been. Each year, the conference has gotten not only stronger at the top, but deeper throughout and I expect that to be the case again this year. Every MAAC game will be important.