One word pretty much sums up this year’s American Canyon girls water polo team – new.

She’s hardly new to the Wolves’ program, but Krista Loper is in her first year as their head coach.

The sport was new to 10 of her 21 players coming into the season, and two of her returning seniors are playing new positions.

“We have a very young team, with over half the girls being new to playing water polo,” Loper said. “We have some younger girls getting lots of varsity experience. This year is a building year and I see a lot of potential.”

Lopez assisted her sister, current American Canyon Athletic Director Melissa Shimer, when Shimer head coached the Wolves to the playoffs in their maiden 2012 season and again the last three seasons.

The Wolves most celebrated player, 2016 All-Napa County water polo selection and County Athlete of the Year finalist Adrienne Dominguez, is learning with everybody else this season.

“Adrienne came out of the goal to fill a much-needed field position,” Loper said of Dominguez, who is also a standout wrestler for the school.

Taking her place in the cage is sophomores Ava Swaffer.

Jessica Vega, a senior who also played soccer last winter, returns to the pool with new offensive duties as the center, or set.

Other returning starters are senior Shania Giese, junior Haley Konoval and sophomore Krissy Dugdale.

Audrey Benton should be a senior, but is having to repeat her junior year after needing a year to recover from a nearly fatal snake bite while on vacation in Belize two summers ago.

“Audrey is starting this year and has been working hard since last year to come back full swing,” Loper said.

Also returning are juniors Ariana Ciampi and Mikela Fernandez, and sophomores Sam Becvar and Isabella Hanson.

The newcomers are juniors Yusbi Jimenez and Daja King, sophomore Eliana Matteo, and freshmen Lydia Benton, Chiara Coronado, Jaylie Farrell, Lillian Gramlick, Brynn Hughes, Emma Rullado and Angel Sapida.

Wins have been hard to come by for the Wolves. But they played two very competitive games at the Sierra Shootout in Rocklin three weeks ago, losing just 3-2 to Freedom of Oakley and 6-3 to Laguna Creek of Elk Grove.

Their next game is Thursday at Dixon, after which they will close the season with home games against Benicia on Oct. 10, Fairfield on Oct. 12, Bethel on Oct. 17, and Dixon on Oct. 24.

Lopez will then look forward to having 18 returners next season.

“I am very excited for the future of the program,” she said.

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Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.