Krysta Rehrig winds up for a shot on goal in last Thursday's home game against Muhlenberg. Rehrig scored eight of the Indians' 12 goals.
The Upper Perk water polo program, under yet another new coach, continues to show improvement, and the girls’ progress has reached the point where it can be measured in victories, including a thrilling 12-7 win against Muhlenberg last week.
Spectacular goalkeeping by Alaina Rae Landis and an offensive outburst by Krysta Rehrig highlighted the win in Upper Perk’s natatorium.
After Muhlenberg took a 5-3 lead on a penalty shot by Samantha Hand with 2:48 left in the first half, Landis slammed the goal door shut until Hand scored again with 2:22 remaining in the game and Upper Perk (6-7) holding a commanding 10-5 lead.
“Every time she steps in the pool, she’s the backbone of our team,” said coach Kyle Kuser, the Tribe’s fourth head coach in four years. “If we didn’t have her in the goal, the games would be a lot different. She’s the leader of our team. She communicates very well with all the girls, and when I need her to she steps up and plays very well.”
Landis, who finished with 25 saves, really stepped up in the third quarter, making three consecutive aggressive, acrobatic stops and protecting a 7-5 Upper Perk lead at the time. The sequence seemed to drain the fight out of Muhlenberg, especially after the Tribe’s Becca Rose fed Rehrig for a three goal lead just over a minute into the fourth quarter.
Landis, a senior, is not the typically tall, rangy, wide wingspan, water polo netminder. She compensates with an aggressive, cerebral approach to her craft.
“My only option really is to challenge the girl,” Landis said. “Yeah, I’m leaving the goal more open, but when they go to look for a shot, I’m standing right there. It makes them a lot more nervous. It works a lot more than standing back in goal.
“Something that I’ve worked throughout the years that I’ve played water polo is knowing where a good shot is and where a good shot isn’t. As a goalie, you have to know your angles.”
While Landis backstopped the defensive end, Krysta Rehrig was the dominant offensive force in the water, scoring eight of the Indians’ goals on just 11 shots.
The junior scored five of Upper Perk’s six first half goals to help the Tribe to a 6-5 halftime lead and then scored three fourth quarter goals to put the Mules away.
Rehrig said she benefited from Upper Perk’s strategy in the offensive end.
“I was always in a different place each time when we set up. I was on a different girl which means that somebody else was getting open and I could just call for the ball and swim away from the girl so that and we could move around and it just happened that I was open and could take the shot.”
Coach Kuser lauded Rehrig for her play all season, but has been urging her to shoot more. Against Muhlenberg she got the message.
The girls team’s inspired play carried into the weekend and resulted in victories over Perk Valley (9-7) and Wissahickon (12-7) in a tournament at the latter. Rehrig and Rose had five goals apiece in the Wissahickon win.
The boys team (5-11) suffered an excruciating 12-11 loss in the nightcap of the doubleheader against Muhlenberg when a shot by the visitors' Jeff McNeill barely trickled into the cage with 48 seconds left in the game for the deciding goal.
The Tribe, which had lost to the Mules by nine goals earlier in the season, overcame an early three-goal deficit and took a 6-5 lead on a skip shot goal by Brandon Umstead (four goals).
The game settled into a tense affair with Upper Perk taking their only other lead at 10-9 on a tally by Kendrick Bowman with 5:33 left and knotting the game at 11 on an Umstead goal with 2:15 remaining.
Kuser was anything but discouraged by the loss.
“We’ve made leaps and bounds, so far. Every time we come out to practice, they show great intensity. They work really hard, and you can see from this game that they’ve all improved very well, ball handling, shooting, and playing as a team."