Nineteen-sixty-nine was a memorable year in New York City baseball folklore. The New York Mets won a World Series Championship just a year removed from an 89-loss season. As a result of that dramatic turnaround, the hometown 9 has come to be affectionately known as the “Amazin’ Mets.”
Six decades later, the 2023 version of the Miramar College women’s water polo team can call themselves the “Amazin’ Jets!” No, they didn’t rebound from losing 89 games the year prior, because they weren’t even in existence the year prior. One year after the program went on hiatus, the “Amazin Jets” returned to the pool to win the PCAC conference title for the first time in school history.
Their story begins in the summer of 2022. With less than 7 players on the roster, Athletic Director Nick Gehler made the difficult decision to cancel the season. “I told the coach at the time that we needed to get at least 7 players to participate,” said Gehler. Seven players is the required minimum to compete. “We fell short of that number and I had to make a difficult call.”
His next call wasn’t too difficult to make. It went to a peppy 27-year old full of energy.
In December of 2022, Head Coach Lucy Gates was hired away from Palomar College, where she had won the PCAC title during the 2022 season as interim head coach. It was now her job to find players and field a team in time for the start of the 2023 season. So, Gates searched San Diego County pools for players while also acting as the head coach of Oceanside High School girls team. “When I got the job I had to hit the ground running with recruiting efforts,” said Gates. “Luckily, we had three returning players that stuck around after the cancelled season, including our star goalie Rylie Hage, so I had at least those three to lean on during the process. I cast a wide net and talked to as many area seniors as I could. I tried to over recruit and it paid off.”
After each game Gates coached at Oceanside, she would seek permission from the opposing coaches to address the seniors on coming to Miramar College to continue their playing careers. As a product of a community college herself, having played at Palomar and then Cal-State Monterey Bay, Gates pushed the benefits of playing at a community college. “Recruits had to buy into my vision for the Miramar program.”
Gates then hired assistant coaches Bennett Bugelli and Evan Dean, who she claims “were essential factors in our team’s success,” and away they went.
Along the way, the coaching staff added the offensive prowess of Poway High School’s Nalani Galindo. Galindo led the Jets in scoring. On the defensive side, Chloe Fairchild showed up from nearby Clairemont High School and step stepped up as the team’s guard. In goal was returner Rylie Hage. “I was so grateful that Rylie stuck around, finding a talented goalie for your program at this level isn’t easy,” said Gates. “Rylie and the other two returners had their season robbed from them the year prior, so I just wanted to give them a great experience.” And that she did. One that few could predict would come.
The 2023 season started September 8th with a 5-game winning streak, which included the Jets first of two wins over Mesa College. By late October, the Jets were 16 and 3 and headed to their first ever PCAC title. The “Amazin’ Jets” wrapped up an unbeaten conference record in the regular season and then went on to win the PCAC tournament championship and qualify for the SoCal regional.
In early November, they were headed to the SoCal regionals where they would avenge an early season loss to Cuesta College in the first round. That victory set up a quarterfinals date with the state’s top-seeded program Santa Barbara City College. The Jets trailed 7-5 before ultimately losing 14-6. Santa Barbara went on to win the SoCal regional and qualify for the state championship tournament. The Jets returned to Miramar College with a desire to improve in 2024 and a whole lot of post-season accolades for their efforts.
In the end, several “Amazin’ Jets” earned post-season honors. First team All-PCAC selections included: Hage; Chloe Fairchild; Erica Pircher; and Emma Roberson. Second team All-PCAC selections included: Jordy Jordison and Emma Fritz. Gabby Atta was named honorable mention. Nalani Galindo and Rylie Hage were also named 1st Team All-Regional and All-American while Chloe Fairchild and Erica Pircher earned 2nd team All-Regional and All-American. Rylie
And as you can imagine Lucy Gates was honored as PCAC Coach of the Year while Nalani Galindo was named PCAC Player of the Year.
With every current player on the team classified as an athletic freshman and eligible to return for next season, plus with another strong recruiting class, there’s little doubt that 2024 will again be just as amazin’!