Cy Creek Girls Water Polo notches second-straight state title
The Cy Creek Girls Water Polo team is, for the second time in two years, the state champion.
Cy Creek cruised to the second consecutive title with a 10-6 victory over St. Agnes in the finals May 6 at the Westside Aquatic Center in Lewisville, but it took a furious fourth-quarter run against last year’s state finals opponent, Southlake Carroll, to get the team there.
The most significant roadblock to the Cougars’ seventh all-time championship was a six-point fourth-quarter deficit in the state semifinals to old rival, Carroll. Junior Brooke Jones said, after the state-title win against St. Agnes, that the Cougars never doubted for a second what the outcome would be.
“Even though we were six points behind in the fourth quarter, I felt some sort of absolute certainty within me that I think everyone else felt,” Jones said. “The certainty that we, as a team, as a cohesive whole, were so capable of winning and so hungry with the drive to win we could’ve done it even if we were 10 points behind.”
Head Coach Jeff Chandler, who won his second-straight Texas Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association’s Girls Coach of the Year Award, credited his Cougars’ squad with executing the game plan to perfection in the fourth quarter of the semifinal game, in a tense, taught situation with little room for error.
“We played [Southlake Carroll] earlier in the year and lost by three,” Chandler said. “I guess being down by six in the fourth quarter was tough, but the girls stuck with the game plan of getting four of their best players [fouled out], which they accomplished, and they just steamrolled after that. It was pretty amazing, one of the most exciting games or experiences I’ve ever been involved with.”
Though the 12-11 Cy Creek win seemed tenuous entering the fourth quarter, the Cougars stepped up and made a statement early in the frame which signaled to Chandler that something special might be in the works.
“We went in the fourth quarter, and had a pep talk right before, and they were all looking down,” Chandler said. “I said, ‘girls, you just did what you were supposed to do. It just took a little longer than we expected. Now, let’s go,’ and we came out and scored in the first 15 seconds. So that’s when I thought, ‘we’ve got a real chance to do this.’ But you never go into that fourth quarter thinking, ‘we’re going to score six goals and win it in the last nine seconds of the game.’”
The thrilling come-from-behind semifinal victory set up the state finals matchup with St. Agnes, a very familiar Cy Creek foe.
“They’ve got a real tough team,” Chandler said. “We played them four times this year, and every game was a scrapper.”
Cy Creek was 4-0 in those contests, most recently a victory in the regional championships two weeks ago, but in close contests, with each giving St. Agnes more information and film to break down.
Chandler said that playing a team over and over again, giving the coaches and players a chance to learn his squad’s tendencies, personnel and sets, is something of a scary prospect. But his Cougars set his mind at ease early in the finals matchup, and the team cruised through the championship bout.
“My dad was a football coach for many years,” Chandler said. “He always hated playing someone preseason and then having to play them again in the playoffs. But our girls knew what they had to do. We got up on them 5-0 right off the bat, and held on for the win.”
The three graduating seniors, Sydney Coachman – last year’s TISCA State MVP – Brooke Brown, the team’s leading goal-scorer this season, and Juliana Tichenor have all been competing with Chandler for well beyond the four years of high school, and he says he can already feel the impact of losing the three long-tenured stalwarts for next year’s campaign.
“They’ve been playing with me for 10 years,” Chandler said. “We run a club program and they’ve been with us ever since I got here 10 years ago. Our main captain, Sydney Coachman, will be sorely missed. Brooke Brown is another captain, and a big-time scorer, and Juliana Tichenor, another senior, is phenomenal on defense.”
Brown emerged as the team’s primary goal-scoring threat as opponents’ keyed in on reigning MVP Coachman all year long, throwing two, often three, defenders at her, opening up space for the other Cougars to operate. Coachman acted as a black hole all year, drawing in defenses, while covering the opposing team’s best player on her defensive end.
Chandler said that adjusting to the radically increased intensity of opposing defenses this year was an adjustment, and one Coachman made admirably.
“I told her at the beginning of the year, it’s kind of a badge of honor,” Chandler said. “She’s handling the best offensive player on their team, one-on-one on defense, and on offense, they’ve got their best two on her. There’s a little cat-and-mouse game at time, and it works if she can draw a third person to her, get two quick passes and move the goalie to the side, and then we’re scoring.”
Chandler says that one defining aspect of this year’s squad is its close-knit, familial spirit. Coachman agrees, citing the closeness as part and parcel of the team’s overall success this year.
“It’s an honor to have been apart of such an amazing team,” Coachman said. “I don’t believe we could have done what we have with out being so close and pushing each other to work harder.”
Coachman and Brown were both TISCA All-State First Team selections, with Jones honored as a Third-Team selection. Katie Gill and Maggie Montgomery, of Jersey Village, also represented Cy-Fair ISD on the TISCA All-State Teams, with First- and Second-Team bids, respectively.
The three seniors, says Chandler, will be sorely missed. But that doesn’t mean that the squad will miss a step. Looking up and down the roster, Chandler sees next year as much closer to a reload than a rebuild.
“We’ve got four juniors that are ready to step in, two that started,” Chandler said. “We have a handful of sophomores and freshmen that are chomping at the bit to get in and play.”
Fortunately, Chandler – looking ahead as much to next year as he was to the state tournament – deliberately sat his three seniors at various junctures throughout the season, forcing the younger, less-veteran players on the roster to operate without them, giving valuable reps to players who will see increased roles very soon, building chemistry with the players who will remain to contend for a third-straight title.
For now, though, the Cougars have earned some time to relax and enjoy their spoils. And the community has been all too happy to spoil the Cougars.
“From the administration at our school, the district level, we were getting tweets and retweets,” Chandler said. “And I got some emails today. It feels nice.”
Speaking on behalf of the three departing seniors, Brown said that if it had to end – and it did – there was no better way to conclude her high school water polo career than ending her two final seasons on a win.
“Getting a state title for the second straight year in a row was the best possible way for me to go out as a Cougar,” Brown said.
Eight Cy-Fair ISD players made TISCA All-State squads: Sydney Coachman (Cy Creek), Brooke Brown (Cy Creek), Katie Gill (Jersey Village) and Zacki Housammy (Cy Creek) were all First-Team selections.
Maggie Montgomery (Jersey Village) and Jake Sharar (Cy Creek) made the TISCA All-State Second-Team.
Brooke Jones (Cy Creek) and Alexander Hunt (Jersey Village) were both TISCA Honorable Mention selections.