Prep girls water polo: Murray's Pollei accomplishes goal
McKenzie Pollei doesn't remember much from her seventh-grade year, but she'll never forget what happened in one of her classes.
She was asked to write down a goal that she wanted to achieve.
Maybe she was naÃ¯ve or just a dreamer, but her goal was to be the top water polo player in Utah and to win a state championship.
Such lofty goals aren't achieved overnight. It took six years, but she finally saw her goals realized this year.
Murray High School recently won the state water polo championship, and when the coaches voted to determine the state's most valuable player, Pollei was an easy choice.
"She's been part of the program since her seventh-grade year," Murray coach Brenna Hayes said. "She pushed herself to get better. She knows how to position herself to get the ball and how to get other teams out of position. She was our team captain and our leader in every way."
Pollei led the Spartans in scoring with 119 goals, which was more than double the output of anyone else on her team. Her shooting percentage was an efficient 66 percent, and she finished with 44 assists and 89 steals.
There was no other important number to point out. Murray finished the season at 29-0.
"First off, I know that I couldn't have done it without my team and without the support of my family," Pollei said. "I put in a lot of extra time before practice, working on shooting and different aspects of the game, and I think all of that extra effort helped me be successful."
Since water polo is a club sport, players don't have to wait until their freshman year to participate at the varsity level. That was good news for Pollei because she got her first varsity action as a seventh-grader. She was named to the all-state team as an eighth-grader.
Even though Pollei had become one of the top players in the state, there still was something missing.
Murray couldn't beat Kearns. The Spartans finished second to the Cougars for three consecutive years.
But that all changed this season when Murray finally beat Kearns 7-4 in the state title game.
"I was hoping we would play them in the championship game because that's the team we haven't been able to beat," Pollei said. "After the game, I remember having the biggest smile on my face. I was speechless, knowing that I finally accomplished what I had been working so hard for. It meant so much to me."
Pollei has accepted a scholarship to play water polo for Cal-State Northridge, a team that was ranked No. 14 this year.
Perhaps it's time for her to get out a piece of paper and set a new set of goals. UtahWaterPolo.com all-state teams
First team • Gina Young, Utah County; Kelly Clonts, Tooele; Alisa Gouge, Kearns; Sydnee Mecham, Murray; Lara Slack, Brighton; Kelcey Smeding, Murray
Second team • Jessie Smith, Steiner; Maddi Merrell, Murray; Crissy Quiroz, Utah County; Alex Walker, Kearns; Sam McElreath, Kearns; Tajia Perkins, Tooele; Jessica Fullmer, Kearns; Kira Hamrick, Utah County
Honorable mention • Whitney Durrans, Utah County; McCall Mash, Murray; Liz Ricks, Cottonwood; Shelby Gonzales, Brighton; Nicole Vanleeuwen, Kearns; Sierra Erickson, Kearns; Amy Warner, Cyprus; Alyssa Bakker, Steiner
MVP • McKenzie Pollei, Murray
Coach of the year • James Young, Utah County