Cabrillo Jordan Lakewood Long Beach Poly Millikan Water Polo Wilson

Moore League Boys’ Water Polo Preview

The Moore League boys’ water polo showcase at Cabrillo High on Wednesday once again kicks off league play for the local teams, and Wilson is once again the class of the league as the Bruins are poised to win a 12th consecutive title.

Wilson coach Jeff Nesmith said his team has a good mix of senior leaders and talented newcomers. In fact, the Wilson alum said that freshmen Hank Rivers, Gray Carson and Zac Crenshaw are the most accomplished freshmen to come to Wilson in a while.

“We’ve got high expectations,” Nesmith said. “I was pleased to see we had good team chemistry in the first game without having played together a lot.”

Wilson beat Cerritos in its season opener 18-6, and Crenshaw led the Bruins with four goals. Carson had a hat trick.

The three freshmen are products of Shore Aquatics, and finished fifth at the Junior Olympics over the summer. Rivers has won numerous swimming awards for the club, and Carson is also a member of the USA Cadet team. He spent time playing in Serbia and Greece this year.

Nesmith said that seniors like Gabriel Fields and David Vandevert have waited their turn to lead the Bruins.

“Max Berg is our anchor,” Nesmith said of his senior captain. “He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever coached. He’s the guy who cleans up at the end of practice. He’s the guy who will do the dirty work.”

Millikan looks like it will lead the chase pack behind Wilson. The Rams have a big group of seniors that seventh-year coach Danely Smith is ready to let loose.

“Obviously we want to do well in league,” Smith said. “But we’re trying to build a postseason mentality and playing beyond the Moore League.”

The Rams are led by senior Seamus McDonald at the two meter, and senior goalkeeper Owen Faringer. Fellow seniors Cade Brownley and Rory Klevin also will play major roles, according to Smith.

“It should be a good year,” Smith said. “I’m excited to see how they do.”

Millikan is in Division 4, but Cabrillo and Jordan are the only local teams who were on the CIF Southern Section preseason watchlist polls in Division 7.

Cabrillo (11-3) is ranked No. 3 in Division 7 thanks in large part to great play from captains Cory Thompson and Noe Villalon. Coach Lawrence Durand has solidified his team’s half-court sets, and he said that has made it easier for players like Thompson, Villalon and Angel Ortiz to take over games.

“These guys have bought into the program and the results are coming,” Durand said.

Jordan coach Curt Knowles has nine seniors on his roster, and has some possible game breakers in attackers Paul Cruz, Adrian Ortiz and Sothirith Pou, who is one of the fastest swimmers on the team.

“I want my players to always walk away knowing they did their absolute best,” Knowles said. “If we win, and I don’t think they did their best, I’m not happy with the game. I always want them to do their best, no matter what the final score is.”

Lakewood and Long Beach Poly are in rebuilding mode. At Poly, head coach Ish Pluton, a 2011 Poly alum and on-campus teacher and coach. The Jackrabbits are in Division 5 and could make some noise if they get into the playoffs, where they haven’t advanced past the first round since 1980.

“They’re striving to be over .500 for the first time in a long time, which will be tough because our schedule is tough,” coach and Poly alum Ish Pluton said. “They want to make it past the first round in CIF — they’d be making Poly history. Me personally, I think if we continue on the path we’re on, I see a team that’s going places in the postseason.”

Poly is led by goalie Ethan Evans, who had more than a dozen saves against Bosco last week and who’s talented enough to keep the Jackrabbits in games against more talented and experienced teams. The bulk of the team is young but they’re led by senior captains, Jack Schwarz (one of Poly’s leading goal scorers in 2017) and Will Morales.

In the youth department, sophomore Nick Cruz and junior Lance Gabriel are already evolving into solid varsity starters.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.
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