Torpedoes building impressive mix as women’s development continues

UWA Torpedoes women’s coach Scott Schweickle has been happy with the progress made in 2018 to date with his international additions helping show the way for an exciting young group as he shoots for a strong finish to the Australian Water Polo League season.

It was a challenging first season for Schweickle in charge at the Torpedoes in 2017 having made the move west to take over the new-look team with the end result just the six wins and some hefty losses at the hands of quality experienced teams.

But there were encouraging signs along the way and Schweickle was willing to back in his young players in 2018 like Glenda Morgan, Pippa Pedley, Claire Whitaker and Ella Fracaro.

They needed experience around them, though, so the retention of leaders Cathryn Earl and Dayna O’Leary was crucial along with the arrival of Tayla Walsh as well as American imports Michelle Martinelli and Alyssa Diacono, and Canadian Jakie Kohli.

The result heading into the two-week break following an impressive penalty shootout win against the Sydney Uni Lions at UWA Aquatic Centre has so far been four wins, a draw and nine losses for the Torpedoes women in 2018.

But that’s a little misleading. UWA had chances to win games against the Hunter Hurricanes (twice), the UTS Balmain Tigers (twice), the UNSW Wests Killer Whales (twice), the Fremantle Marlins and the Drummoyne Devils (twice).

With a bit of luck and taking opportunities better, the Torpedoes’ record could easily be reversed right now given their strong performances to date in 2018.

Schweickle couldn’t have been happier with what Walsh, Diacono, Martinelli and Kohli have added to the group this season along with the leadership of O’Leary and Earl to help the development of the young players.

“Their input into the actual dynamics of the group, along with the experience of Cathryn Earl and Dayna O’Leary, has been really good. The hardest part of making a team perform isn’t just getting everyone to like each other, but to make the chemistry work,” Schweickle said.

“That’s not an easy thing to make happen and everyone is trying to work hard. Like any team we’ve had our niggles and emotional ups and downs amongst each other, which you get with wins, losses and injuries. But their input has been really good.

“Our two American imports have actually been going out to speak at school assemblies and things like that about their journey so that’s interesting for the kids to hear how they have progressed through the system in the US.”

When Schweickle arrived as coach at UWA heading into the 2017 season, there was a significant turnover of players and that did again happen leading into 2018 with the loss of the likes of Victoria Brown, Alex Hughes and Tess Hosking.

There is a bit of a gulf in players between 18 and 23 with the Torpedoes, but Schweickle is hoping the young players coming through now will stick around for longer.

“We lost a lot of players from when I first got here and then we lost a couple more coming into this season so there is still a bit of a vacuum between our experienced and younger players,” he said.

“Trying to hold on to players moving through the pathways can be difficult and in that respect it’s given the younger ones the opportunity to step up and have a crack at it.

“Having said that, we don’t want them thinking when they get to 20 after playing three years of national league that they move on to something else. We want to keep them involved in the sport all the way through and that’s a difficult thing to do in today’s day and age.”

Schweickle hasn’t been afraid to throw teenagers Whitaker, Pedley, Fracaro, Lexi Woolley and Morgan into key roles this season and the results have been exciting.

“They are really talented young players coming through and they all have very good worth ethics. They are all going into Year 12 and are trying to make that work so there’s a lot of extra pressure on them,” Schweickle said.

“They have really improved and I don’t just put that down to the coaching, but it has a lot to do with the senior players around them and the culture we are building here at the moment. They are certainly thriving off that for sure.”

Looking back three weeks to the impressive penalty shootout against the finals bound Sydney Uni, Schweickle was pleased for his players to get reward for effort following so many competitive efforts that saw them just fall short against strong teams.

“Any win in the national league is a good win and if you can compete with the top six teams, then anything can happen at the end of the day and at the pointy end of the competition,” he said.

“A win is a win and you’ll take it, but when you beat the better sides it is more satisfying and it increases the self-belief the players have.

“It was quite encouraging for all the players. They played extremely well and we do still have a little bit left that we can improve on for sure, but we’ve been pretty tight against the teams who are in the top four at the moment.

“We’ve gone close to getting some really good wins and things just haven’t gone our way and it can be hard to bounce back from that, but they’ve been pretty resilient the kids.”

Since that win has been a significant break now for the Torpedoes heading into the road trip to Brisbane starting Thursday April 12 against the Queensland Breakers.

“We just have to keep going through the motions and make things as fun as possible to turn up to training, that’s a big part of it. Every club is going through it and some clubs, like Fremantle, still don’t play for another week either so that’s even tougher,” Schweickle said.

“We have to try and work together as clubs to have training games and things like that to stay sharp.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how the clubs all bounce back but we did have some girls in high performance programs. The girls who have been training have been keeping as much touch as possible but like most teams I imagine, we’ll be a little bit clunky when we play again.”