Now in his second season as the Sobrato High boys water polo coach, Dale Dowd couldn’t be more impressed by his players’ effort and performance.
“The guys have played exceptionally well and improved a lot,” he said. “They’re displaying solid fundamentals, making great decisions and showing an evolution in their game.”
The Bulldogs had a thin roster in the Covid spring season, but numbers are steadily climbing back up with a full fall season in place.
“We ended up with seven or eight new freshmen with zero water polo experience come into the program,” Dowd said.
Even with the lack of experience, Dowd said it’s an encouraging sign for the program that novices are coming in because if they stick with the sport and work hard, they have the potential to develop into solid varsity players by their junior year. Sobrato returns a fair amount of talent from the spring team, including hole-set Evan Stapleton, who is a load to deal with for opponents.
Through the team’s first two matches, the senior is averaging six goals per contest. When Stapleton is not scoring goals, he’s drawing kickouts and creating scoring opportunities for his teammates.
“Evan started having his way that teams are double and triple teaming him,” Dowd said. “Every time he gets the ball, he makes something happen.”
Matt Primeau plays a vital role as the point and hole defender. Stapleton and Primeau usually initiate the offense with a give-and-go sequence, and Dowd said Primeau consistently makes “beautiful” passes into the hole-set position where only Stapleton can retrieve the ball, which is not an easy thing to do with so many bodies surrounding Stapleton.
“Matt sees where the game is going and creates opportunities, goals and action,” Dowd said. “He’s an all-around threat both offensively and defensively and has an insane shot. But the thing that really stands out is his passing, which was phenomenal against Leigh (on Sept. 15).”
Sophomore Justin Gerrity, who didn’t play in the spring but has club experience, has done a nice job at goalie. Dowd said Alex Portera is a difference-maker in several areas of the game.
“The dude is a really good athlete, incredibly fast and has an insane heart,” Dowd said. “The thing I love about Alex is one, his athleticism is off the charts, and two, he loves a challenge. Against Leigh, he volunteered to take on and stop the other team’s best player, and it was awesome to see. He appears to not be afraid of anything and he’s most engaged when he is challenged—that’s when he’s at his best.”
Another returner, Ethan Wells, has come back an improved player and is always in attack mode, Dowd said. Wells plays tough defense, drives to the goal and sets up teammates for scoring chances. Wells possesses a strong shot from the left-flat/driver position and is known for his endurance.
“Ethan has a crazy engine and can keep going and going and going,” Dowd said. “He has endless heart, phenomenal athleticism and is not afraid of a challenge. He moves really well and we need that kind of movement.”
Additional returning players who received significant game action in the spring and look to make an impact this season include Lucas Castro, Thomas Coffaro and Andrew Newberg.