Heritage water polo

A year after winning a North Coast Section championship, the bulk of the Heritage girls’ water polo team returns to defend its title this season.

The Heritage girls’ water polo team hopes to standout in the Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL) for the third consecutive year.

Surpassing new feats, the squad has started the season as reigning North Coast Section Division I champions for the first time. With a fast, athletic team, the Patriots hope to continue their success while fending off other well-rounded league opponents.

“This season, we are much younger,” coach Jeff Lapum said. “Our goals are very similar to last season. We want to compete well throughout the season and carry this on into the playoffs.”

With eight returning players who gained a lot of experience last season during the long playoff run, the Patriots will be led by team captains Emma Lapum, Ella Simone and Kayla Longoria, with Lapum being the only senior on the squad this year. Junior Ella Simone and Lapum were last year’s the leading scorers, with junior Kayla Longoria and junior goalie Hannah Bonham among other key players.

Those returning players will be joined by sophomores Lily Finazzo and Eisha Pasamonte and freshmen Jordyn Davies, Elly Longoria and Amanda Muse.

Heritage had a 19-8 record last season, winning all eight games against league opponents. Finally getting over the hump in the playoffs last season, the girls overcame adversity and maintained focus, taking it a game at a time, which eventually led them to the biggest accomplishment in the history of the program - a North Coast Section title.

The playoffs occurred during northern California fires last year, which caused many delays and a pause of the season. Through it all, the leadership of Maddie Bursch, Katelyn Rodrigue and Katie Schaffer (now graduated) and fellow team leaders Emma Lapum and Ella Simone held the team together to deliver the title.

Approaching the 2019-20 season, the Patriots are fired up and ready to repeat success. Eyeing other league opponents, Liberty looks to stand in the way of the Patriot squad this year, making a deep run itself into the North Coast Section playoffs last year when they got to the semifinal game, where they ran into Heritage, losing to the Patriots 17-10.

“I think Liberty will be very tough this year,” Lapum said. “They are very skilled and well coached. I believe our other programs in the BVAL are making great strides to improve, but Liberty will be our main competition. For us to repeat as champions, we must find a way to get past Liberty.”

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