The Lions boys water polo team went undefeated in league play a season ago. Its season ended in the first round of the North Coast Section playoffs in a 7-2 defeat at the hands of Monte Vista.
Gone from that team are stalwart players Leo Colbert, Jase Rosseler and Alex Soderberg. Head coach Kurt Roessler was most concerned about replacing Colbert, a stalwart goalie who rarely played a bad game. Replacing him is senior Tom Dywer.
“I was worried because we didn’t have anyone to replace Leo,” Roessler said. “In the offseason, he (Dwyer) really stepped up, worked hard and is looking very good in goal. He’s the starting goalie and still working hard. I’m excited at the way he’s been playing.”
As for the rest of the team, the cupboard isn’t bare. Returning senior J.T. Sarmento, last season’s league’s MVP, is the object of Division I schools’ interest. Joining him are seniors Logan Trudell and Jake Flint, as well as Kevin Koenig and Chad Russick, who the coach believes owns the best shot on the team.
“We’ve got some really good players to fill in,” Roessler said. “Our starters from last year stepped up; we’re looking really good. If these guys can come together as a team, there won’t be a weakness. Last year we played against a lot of teams that were man-for-man better, but we played as a team and beat them.”
The Patriots’ second-place, 13-11 record a season ago was good enough for a berth in the NCS playoffs. Their season ended in the first round against San Ramon Valley.
While Nick Araujo is in his first year as head coach, he isn’t new to the program, having watched most of the matches over the last several seasons. Heritage returns three starters from the varsity team: Carter Haines, John Palazzotto and goalie Ty Elder. All three are seniors.
Despite the graduation of Timmy Yu, Kenny Strauss, Zach Duran, Jackson Bahns, Travis West, John Hockel, Eric Stone and Kurt Holzmuller, the new coach likes the team. “The team looks really good,” said Araujo. “I would say that 100 percent of my varsity players and 95 percent of JV players played summer club water polo. That hasn’t ever happened in the past out here.”
The progress is by no means exclusive to Heritage, as all of the league’s rival coaches are reporting similar progress – much of which is due to the inaugural season of the Oakwood Water Polo Club.
“The kids took it upon themselves to work hard all summer,” Araujo said. “I can see a huge difference. We all see improvement in our players. Competition should be much improved this year.”
The Wolverines expect strong play from seniors Alex Bilderback, Andrew Wayne and Solomon Abuda. Wayne is a captain along with Andrew Harrington, also a senior. The majority of the players Deer Valley will send to the pool are returning from the 2010 team.
“They are very versatile and can run the offense with a number of different looks,” head coach Kiel Olff wrote in an e-mail. “They have great arms and raw ability. They really need solid defensive efforts from everyone in the pool. We’ve made a decision to really up our conditioning this year, and we’ll see if it translates.”
One change from last season will be in net. Sophomore Mark Ortlieb and senior Erick Lloyd are vying for the starting role.
The Falcons boys didn’t enjoy the success of the girls team did last year. While the girls won the league title, the boys struggled, fielding a roster featuring only one senior, goalie Dalton Weger.
Additionally, Freedom boasted only two juniors in 2010, plus five sophomores and two freshmen, all of whom have a year of high school water polo under their belts.
Antioch experienced a 2010 season similar to Freedom’s, only without the benefit of a home pool. The Panthers’ only home game came against Freedom. For the Panthers, the term “home game” is used loosely, as their home pool is located on the Los Medanos College campus.
This year, the pool at LMC is ready for home games, so Antioch will have the benefit of a consistent home schedule, even if it means added travel.
“It’s really coming together,” head coach Nick Plurkowski said. “We still have to do some fundraising so maybe we can get a true home pool. But for this year, there’s no more changing pools or bouncing around. LMC is a full-time pool.”
This year, Antioch will be led by senior and captain Tanner Fuhrmann, who plays goalie. Plurkowski called him the best Panthers goalie in years. Joining him as a captain is junior Nate Huizer. Sophomores Eric Nooteboom and Juan Medina will join Huizer as the team’s primary scorers and leaders.
As was the case last year, Antioch’s baseball coaches have encouraged their players to play water polo in the fall. The majority of players from last season’s team have graduated, but seniors Logan Crump and Nick Putman return. They’ll be joined by roughly a half dozen other baseball players new to Antioch water polo.
“It’s really exciting to have arm like that,” Plurkowski said. “They aren’t all the best swimmers, but they’re going to be high scoring. They’ll be able to get out and get some goals.”
The remaining Bay Valley Athletic League team is Pittsburg, which has no water polo team. The Pirates’ campus is also without a pool. The Pirates do, however, field a swim team, and like Antioch, plays home games at Los Medanos College.