It’s a small splash for girls water polo but Lafayette coach James Waeckerle and Marquette coach Tim Mosby hope it begins a ripple that grows and grows.
Like wrestling used to be before this past winter season, water polo has been a historically male sport. Girls who wanted to play has no choice but to play on boys water polo teams. One reason was that there were not enough girls to field their own school teams; another was that the schools had not determined a need for a girls team.
However, things are starting to change.
Waeckerle organized the Lafayette Girls Water Polo Invitational. Four teams — Lafayette, Marquette, Parkway North and Oakville — played in this first round robin tournament.
“It was my idea because it was the first time we had enough girls to have a team,” Waeckerle said. “All of these girls already participate on their respective
Waeckerle explained that there used to be a girls tournament at Ladue, but since 2012 there were not enough girls playing around the Metro to host an all-girls tournament.
“We hope this will be an annual event,” Waeckerle said of the Lafayette Invitational. “If we have enough teams with enough girls, we will plan to host this again.”
Mosby likes the idea that the tournament gives the girls a chance to shine. He noted that the coaches usually schedule a couple of all-girls games each year.
Waeckerle believes the idea can grow and continue. Colleges offer the sport so it’s something girls can aspire to earn a scholarship
“I would love to see girls water polo become an official MSHSAA [Missouri State High School Activities Association] sport,” Waeckerle said. “I believe that if it was a sanctioned sport, I would have at least double the number of girls come out, and I have spoken to several other coaches who feel the same way.”
Marquette won all three games to earn the championship. Parkway North finished second with a 2-1 record. The Vikings were followed by Lafayette at 1-2. Oakville was winless in its three games.
Mustangs assistant coach Scott Summers guided the girls team in the tournament.
“The girls were very excited to play in the tournament,” Summers said. “The chance to play with the correct size ball and with all the other girls was a great experience. They got to see what they could do without boys in the water.”
All the girls that played are on the junior varsity team normally, Summers said.
The Mustangs played Oakville first and came away with a 15-4 win. Marquette handled Lafayette and earned a 14-5 victory. In their final game, the Mustangs dispatched Parkway North to score a 15-6 triumph.
“The girls played very well,” Summers said. “I wasn’t sure how well they would play since they aren’t in the water together all the time. Mostly, they are in with the boys.”
Abbey Bolt led Marquette with 11 total tournament goals. Brianna Allstun recorded 10 goals and Grace Bryski added eight.
“The defense was great by the whole team,” Summers said.
Waeckerle said he was impressed by the Mustangs.
“Marquette was clearly the best team in the tournament,” Waeckerle said. “They won all three games and they won each one by a wide margin.”
His Mustangs were thrilled to capture the first tournament title, Summers said.
“The girls were overjoyed. Not only because they won the tournament but they got to play with just girls,” Summers said. “I was also excited. It was one of the best days I have coached. The girls don’t get the chance to show what they can really do playing against boys.
Waeckerle said the experience was unforgettable and that it was a joy to watch the girls “step up and take on roles that many of them do not normally play.”
“This was definitely one of the highlights of my 19-year career,” Waeckerle said. “I have not been a part of any other event where it was such a positive experience and the girls were so appreciative of the opportunity. I can’t thank my assistant coaches [Jessica Kempf, Evyn Spencer