Exeter starts season 2-4 before putting together a six-game winning streak
EXETER – Winning streaks are nothing new to the Monarchs. In 2019 they won 13 of their first 14 games including 10-straight, and have now won six straight games this season to improve their record to 8-4.
The Monarchs are currently playing with 19 girls on the roster, which is down from over 30 they’d have in a typical season. Of those 19, 13 have never played water polo. As a result, immense growth has been a central theme through the team’s first half of their schedule. The girls are quick learners as they began the season 2-4 before going on their current win streak. One of their losses came against Tulare Union in their third match, but the Monarchs played them again nine days later and won the game, which shows the team’s quick evolution.
“I think my senior leaders have done a good job of imparting wisdom. And then our younger and newer girls have listened and applied it,” head coach Patrick Hendricks said.
Despite the inexperience, the team has been driven by strong senior leadership in the likes of Grace Jeter, Grace Boland and Erin Hirni. All three have been on varsity since sophomore year with the latter two seeing time as freshmen. Jeter and Hirni were third and fourth on the team in goals in 2019 as sophomores, and are now the team’s top two goal scorers.
According to Hendricks, Hirni has grown leaps and bounds over the last four years. She currently has 62 goals through the first 12 games of the season, which is more than double her numbers as a sophomore. Not only has she grown in ability but also in confidence, which has rubbed off on her teammates.
“She’s just really become a beast, really hard for teams to defend. I’ve seen teams put two and three [girls] on her and she still figures out ways to score,” Hendricks said. “She’s just so strong and she’s smart. She just has a knack to know where the ball is going to go. And I think that everyone else really keys off the energy that she brings.”
Right behind her is Jeter who has 33 goals through 12 games, which is three away from her sophomore year totals. Jeter and Hirni have put the team on their back by combining for nearly 70% of the team’s goals so far this season.
The Monarchs have chosen a good time to start stringing together strong performances as they only have three more games left until league play begins on Sept. 30 at Kingsburg. Hendricks feels as if the team will be ready to compete for a Central Sequoia League title and Valley title. In 2019 they won their playoff opener at home in an overtime thriller against Reedley before losing in the next round to Garces Memorial.