Above: Coach Ron Marsh with #14 McKenna Sutterlin from Holt High School, Mara Logan from East Lansing High School, and #13 Cameron Magee from Holt High School
The Holt/East Lansing (HOTEL) girls’ water polo team has qualified for the East Region Championship Tournament for the first time in the team’s history. The girls head to Saline High School on May 19 to take on Ann Arbor Huron (the number-four-ranked team in the state) to vie for a spot at the State Championship Tournament in June. Friday’s game is at 7:45 p.m. Other area teams at the tournament include Okemos, Grand Ledge, Mason, Saline, Ann Arbor Huron, Ann Arbor Pioneer and Ann Arbor Skyline.
“This is the first year that we have had a majority of juniors return for their senior year,” Coach Ron Marsh said. This is Coach Marsh’s seventh year coaching aquatics in East Lansing. “We all had a goal in mind and that was to advance out of districts and go to regionals. Another goal was to have a winning record at every tournament and we did that. The next goal was to have an overall winning record and we did that.”
Marsh said when a team makes a big improvement like this, “it is a partnership between coach and athletes to achieve the goals.”
Kelley Sweitzer, East Lansing senior, agreed. “The best advice I can give to underclassmen is to invest your time in the sport if you really want the team and yourself to go far. That means training in the summer and winter (as well as the fall swim season) to be the best polo player possible. It takes a lot of hard work to become good at something, and water polo is no exception. Your team will thank you and your struggles will not go unrecognized when you go on to win games.” Sweitzer and many of the other girls trained with Raptor Water Polo, a new Mid-Michigan area club, during the winter months to get ready for spring polo season.
“We have worked hard to finally achieve this goal which we’ve had for the past four years. I remember when I first joined the team it was a big deal when we finally had more wins in a season than losses; it is hard to believe we have a record of 21 wins and only seven losses and are going to regionals,” Laurel Cullerton, East Lansing senior said.
Sweitzer said the entire team had worked very hard, but gave a special “shout-out” to East Lansing junior Mallory Haynie, who switched from field player to take on the vacant position of goalkeeper. “She has turned out to be our biggest secret weapon in the cage,” Sweitzer said.
“My best memory this season was going 3-0 at the Chelsea Tournament early in the season. It was the first time I realized the potential of our team and how much better we could become. I was used to getting beat up at tournaments. We beat Dexter, Seaholm, and Troy, several teams in our area (that we had never beaten before),” Sweitzer said.
“I have enjoyed coaching this group of young ladies this year. They have learned new skills, never gave up during even the toughest games, and we have always had fun,” Marsh said.
Sweitzer and Cullerton agreed that all the hard work doesn’t rule out fun. “I really enjoy joking around with Coach Marsh and the team; we have countless inside jokes and nicknames for each other. It's all a lot of fun and the Holt and East Lansing girls all get along really well.” Cullerton agreed, and said the girls had a lot of fun at practices and between games at tournaments.
Marsh mentioned another important fact. Every single girl on the varsity team—Holt and East Lansing—made Michigan Water Polo’s Academic All-State team, which means each girl has a 3.75 GPA or above. “This is the first time every varsity player has made Academic All-State,” Marsh said.
"We have a very strong philosophy that student-athletes must also do well in school. The hard work you put in in the pool will carry over to the classroom, and vice versa,” Sweitzer said.