CHS water polo team ready to repeat

Claremont High School boys water polo coach Kristin Rodriguez acknowledges that the Pack is the team to beat after capturing a CIF title last year. She said although the task will be harder this year, the team is ready for another great season.

Last year’s success included an overall record of 22-11, beating rival Damien for only the second time in 20 years, an undefeated record in the Palomares League and then skating through the post-season by outscoring every rival by double digits.

“When we got into the season [last year], we had some games that weren’t as challenging, so I think this year that is not going to be the case as much. It will be a more equal playing field because they had a lot of juniors and we had a lot of seniors,” said Coach Rodriguez.

“We are seeded number one, so that is exciting. We know we have a target, but we had a target last year as well,” she added.

The challenge and excitement behind building a winning program revolves around the fact that star players all eventually graduate. It will be particularly hard for Claremont this year since they lost Steven Cagle, one of the best high school goalkeepers ever.

To replace Cagle, Coach Rodriguez has brought up junior Kellan Grant to be their starting goalie.

“He knows what shoes he has to fill, but has been working his butt off all summer with myself as well as with the club,” she said. “He has improved greatly. He’s not afraid of the ball, is very aggressive in the cage and is coachable.”

Also moving on was the Pack’s top field player Adam Ward, who was sidelined most of the year but was a huge inspiration despite injury. “His work ethic pushed our entire team,” Coach Rodriguez said.

Returning to the offensive line, Bruno Snow and Johnathon Wong are the two to watch this year. Both had great seasons last year and have been playing water polo since elementary school, according to Coach Rodriguez.

Sophomore Ian Waasdorp will become the main defensive player replacing senior Matt Turk, who will be more of an offensive threat and a driver for the team.

“I’m asking two of our guys to change their roles completely. Ian was more offensive originally and Matt was more defensive. I am switching them around because I think it will be beneficial in the long run,” the Coach said.

To get the team, she will replicate last year’s strategy of playing a very tough preseason beginning with the Santa Barbara Tournament, during which they lost four games last year. The boys also have a scrimmage against Ernest Righetti High School next week. “The schedule is pretty intense,” she said.

Unfortunately Coach Rodriguez won’t be able to make the Righetti game because she will be leading a top US girls team in an international tournament.

For six years she has been involved in the USA Cadet National Team. This year, she’ll coach the 18 and under club at the Union Americana de Natacion (UANA) tournament next week in Kingston, Jamaica. She went to Hungary last year for training with the team and the year before that was at a UANA tournament in Argentina. Her husband Alex Rodriguez will also be attending to coach the boys team.

When she returns, the Palomares League competition will be just around the corner, with the first games in the second week of October. She expects tough competition from Ayala because of some crafty players she spotted on club teams. In addition, Bonita has a new head coach who appears to be a formidable opponent, according to Coach Rodriguez.

—Steven Felschundneff



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