On the edge of campus behind the metal fences of the aquatic center, the South Pasadena High’s boys’ varsity water polo team trains for its upcoming season. After gradually returning to the water over the summer, the team has been forced to consolidate their roster and intensify practices in preparation for their upcoming season.
Their time and access to the pool has been so limited that they had to forgo their annual two-a-day “hell week” practices this season. In place of hell week, head coach Michael Gonzales made regularly scheduled practices more strenuous than in previous years.
Gonzales has stressed the importance of conditioning in preparation for this season. Instead of developing complex strategies early in the year, the offensive scheme will remain relatively simple until the season progresses. They have currently been practicing a counterattack offense, a playing style popular in high school for its ability to score on other team’s turnovers.
The players’ expectations for the season are high, as they now possess more experienced seniors than they have had in previous years. They will be returning all but one of their starters, in an exceptionally deep senior class. Standout players such as seniors Leo Sonner, DJ Myer, and Cameron Benitez were an integral part of achieving a Rio Hondo League title in the 2015 season and look toward similar results this year.
“The biggest realization for the seniors is that this is our last season and we’re just trying to enjoy it and work as hard as we can to make it special.” said Gonzales.
That level of success, however, does not come without substantial hurdles. La Cañada’s similarly senior-heavy team has consistently practiced since last winter under a new head coach. Additionally, San Marino’s squad has held on to a few powerhouse players, maintaining the level of play that led them to be the sole team in the league the Tigers never conquered.
Last year’s CIF run ended early after a first round loss to Aliso Niguel, a defeat that has provided much needed motivation for the Tigers. The league moved down a level in CIF division this year, making a long post-season run a more achievable goal. They hope to continue their domination over the Rio Hondo League and potentially succeed in CIF.
Their schedule this year includes tough out of conference games against Notre Dame and Montebello as well as Rio Hondo matches against Temple City, Monrovia, Blair, La Canada, and San Marino.