by Josh McFadden
Over the past several seasons, Viewmont High School has built a powerhouse water polo club. The Vikings were certainly at the top of their game this season, as the girls brought home a state championship in the 5A division. The boys team took fourth in state competition.
The Viewmont girls fought off a tough challenge from Murray, prevailing 9-8 in the title match, held May 19 at Olympus High School. The victory was especially sweet for the Vikings considering it fell just short of the top prize last season, losing in the championship match.
“It was a great feeling,” said assistant coach James Keddington. “This year’s title game was no walk in the park. We had to play some very challenging teams. Kylie Gardner, our goalie, really stole the show defensively with some very difficult corner blocks that came from up close. Ultimately, though, we were better conditioned and better prepared to win that game.”
During the state tournament, when the pressure started to mount, Viewmont used experiences from the regular season to help pull it through. The Vikings had a number of close matches throughout the year and had some key come-from-behind wins.
“Knowing that we can come back from behind and not let the other teams defeat us mentally was a big advantage,” Keddington said.
The Vikings boasted a potent offense this season. Both Kiersten Buzbee and Kylee Weseman were strong from the outside could score from the perimeter. Heidianne Goble showed her skills from the center when Keddington and head coach Mike Rose needed her to play the game from up close. Keddington said she scored many goals from the set position.
“We are very lucky to have a diverse set of offensive strategies and strengths at our disposal,” Keddington said.
The girls were determined to take the next step this season and win the state championship. Keddington said neither he nor Rose had to motivate the girls much—they took it upon themselves to work toward accomplishing the team goals. It also helped that the girls got along well in and out of the pool. In fact, four Viewmont girls team members will play together in junior college.
“I think the biggest motivation came from a commitment to each other,” he said. “These girls are very good friends out of the pool. This commitment to each other played a big role. Also, coming so close last year made achieving this title believable.”
Repeating as state champs won’t be easy next season. The Viking girls lose nine seniors whose experience and talents provided incredible leadership and successful results. The team will return its second-leading scorer, and its JV goalie performed well. Keddington hopes his players will find other ways to compete next year.
“What we might lack in physical size, strength and swim speed compared to some team we will face, we will make up for in experience, emotional cohesiveness and playing smart,” he said. “If, during the offseason and fall, we can learn to play well together without the recently graduated girls and improve our swim speed, I don’t see any reason why we can’t continue to be a threat.”
Kylee Wesemann was named the MVP of the girls league, while goalie Kylie Gardner and Heidianne Goble were First Team All-State standouts. Kiersten Buzbee made Second Team All-State.
On the boys’ side, goalie Luke Hughes, Austin Kunzler and Matt Keddington were First Team All-State performers. The boys placed fourth at the state tournament, which didn’t quite meet the team’s expectations. The boys suffered some injuries and had some missteps at the end of the season. James Keddington said when the team was at its best, it was “unstoppable.”
Overall, James Keddington is not only happy with the boys’ and girls’ accomplishments in the pool but with the type of people the water polo club has helped them become. Five Viking players will be competing in the college ranks next season, and eight others have already received assignments to serve as volunteer missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. James Keddington also thanked the many parent volunteers, who collectively put in hundreds of hours to support the coaches and players.
“This is a great signal to us that as a club we are preparing these young people to be ambitious, goal-oriented, and service minded,” he said. “For us as coaches, that is what we really want out of these players. Wins come and go, and it makes the game more fun. But seeing players mature in life, become contributing citizens who look after others in the community—that is what we are really trying to achieve, and we are doing just that. Our future is bright in Davis County.”