The South Pasadena varsity water polo team has their sights set on a CIF championship. They know success comes from honoring the ethic of hard work as the starting point toward that goal. Photo by Tony Chen

Michael Gonzales is entering his seventh year as head coach of the SPHS Tigers varsity water polo team and he’s preparing for another deep run into the postseason. In fact, he will not be surprised if they actually took home the top prize. Gonzales will be grateful, but not surprised.

The Tigers last year placed second in the Rio Hondo League and fought their way to the CIF semifinals where they narrowly lost a close contest to Redondo Union, 8-6. 

The last time SPHS water polo was crowned CIF champions was back in 1994. Gonzales would like this year, his seventh as coach, to finally reach that goal.

“I think the enthusiasm that we’ve been building up over the last couple of years has very much been because of the fact that we’re in pursuit of trying to get after a CIF championship,” Gonzales said after the Tigers played a pre-season scrimmage against the once-powerhouse Montebello, who they easily handled, 19-10.

“There are plenty of checkpoints that we have to hit along the way; our performance in Rio Hondo League, our performance in pre-season play,” Gonzales said. “Their development is important as student athletes, especially our younger student athletes who are just going through a heavier academic load this year than what they are accustomed to. I honestly think the biggest goal that we want to see from such a young varsity team is some development and some maturation and if the byproduct is getting back to a CIF semifinal or to the CIF championship game that’s fantastic.”

There are four key players that are returning this year, all sophomores now, and they are working tirelessly towards the championship goal.

However, fatigue was one of the aspects of the game that Gonzales was focused on during last Friday’s preseason match against Montebello.

“They are focal players,” the coach said. “I thought the four of them did a great job of playing through fatigue and it starts with Liam in the cage and I think Liam had a fantastic first half. I think Eddie, No. 6, did a great job of facilitating possessions in the first half. I think fatigue really started to show itself in the second half.” Gonzales was referring to sophomores’ Liam Markus and Eddie Lane-Flannigan.

For the last couple of weeks, the team had been practicing hard, working with weights, among other physical stresses, and the coaches wanted to see how well the team would respond.

“They’re tired from the last two-and-a-half weeks of training that we’ve been throwing on them,” Gonzales said. “They’ve been going double-days so they’re tired right now. Saturday will be the first weekend we don’t have an alumni game or a fund-raiser or a practice. We’ll take the weekend off and then get back into the weight room Monday and start again.”

The Tigers first meaningful game of the season was Tuesday against Palos Verdes at PV. Although a non-conference game, Gonzales said this will be the team’s first real test to gauge where they are as a unit.

“That’s our first official game of the season,” he said. “Our kids are tired, but our kids recover quickly. We are in shape. We’ll have the weekend to recover. We will definitely recover over that 48-hour-time period and it’s a familiar opponent. We’ve seen PV through club play over the entire club season. We’ve fared will against them.”

The contest against PV proved to be an important but humbling, handing the Tigers their first loss of the season, 17-6.

“I don’t think this game dropped any major revelations for our group, but I think it did provide some perspective on where we are as a young program, and the work that that we need to put in on a daily basis in order to achieve our goals for the season,” Gonzales said. “We’re all eager to get back to work.”

In the final analysis, it’s important that the kids play together as a team and succeed off the merits of the work.

“We’re really proud of these kids,” he said. “I think collectively their attitudes are in an awesome place right now. I think these guys are really approaching this season with a humble work ethic and that really was the point for us; to get back to the understanding that we succeed off the merits of our work, and I think these guys are starting to understand that.”

2018 SPHS Boys Water Polo Roster

Varsity

1. Felix, Anthony 10

2. Felix, Michael 9

3. Hadsell-Florin, Blix 9

4. Hadsell-Florin, Egan 9

5. Imasaki, Owen 9

6. Kim, Hyun 11

7. Kowal, Evan 11

8. Lane-Flannigan, Eddie 10

9. Lee, Josh 12

10. Lee, Philip 12

11. Lupien, Tao 11

12. Markus, Liam 10

13. Palacios, Maven 10

14. Sanniballe, Henrique 12

15. Sidhu, Uday 12

16. Sin, Jaren 9

Junior Varsity

1. Bae, Inha 10

2. Chang, Aidan 10

3. Cho, Ellis 9

4. De Leon, Franco 9

5. Dickinson, Pono 9

6. Elsner, Troy 9

7. Fogel, Ben 11

8. Gale, Aidan 9

9. Haley, Garret 9 

10. Ho, Kaden 9

11. Hunt, Caleb 9

12. Kim, David 10

13. Robert Kissig, 11

14. Lee, Joseph 11

15. Lee, Sean 11

16. Michels, William 9

17. Serwin, Liam 10

18. Brett Sonner, 11

19. Walsh, Oscar 10

20. Wooton, James 9

21. Wooton, Robert 9

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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