The Wilson water polo team is one of the most dominant dynasties in Long Beach sports history, in years both bizarre and regular. This year the Bruins are going for a 13th consecutive Moore League championship, which would also be their 34th in the last 36 seasons.
Head coach Jeff Nesmith played a young team made up of a lot of sophomores and juniors last year and was still able to win the league championship. Those Bruins are back and a year older and stronger, with a roster full of top-level club experience.
“The guys are so excited, and it gives us something to work towards and find success in,” said Nesmith.
Wilson returns Gray Carson, who won Moore League Player of the Year as a sophomore last year, to headline a deep and talented team. Kade Margain, Misha Tracy, and Andrew Sorenson make up a very talented senior class that will be missing Nathan Morisky, who is sitting with a broken wrist.
In the younger classes Zac Crenshaw, Brady Simon, and Sean Tunnicliff will add some depth, with Simon looking to show what he can do in his first year starting in goal as a sophomore.
Millikan was the runner-up last year and the Rams look good again this year, even with the hasty restart.
“All the boys are excited to even be able to practice water polo, so the opportunity to play games is the cherry on top,” said Dane Smith, the Rams’ coach. “Everyone is out of shape and out of practice but we are going to play hard and hopefully have some fun doing it.”
The Rams return a pair of first-team All-Moore League players in senior Kai Goeku and junior Max Miller. The other senior contributors will be Maceo Glenn, Zac Jamali, Cole Parkins, Brody Brounley, Zen Evans, and Matthew Hernandez, with junior Logan White contributing as well.
Long Beach Poly coach Ish Pluton expressed the same sentiment his coaching colleagues did–this quick season will be about competition, but it will be about a lot more than that, as well.
“My main focus is getting kids game time,” said Pluton. “They’ve been waiting 11 months to play, so they’re all going to play. That being said, I think we’ll be very competitive with our Moore League rivals–this will be fun.”
Pluton said Poly’s first practice was at 5:30 a.m. at Cabrillo, but spirits were bright despite the pre-dawn hour.
“The sheer amount of elation was nearly tangible,” he said. “You could feel the excitement across the whole pool, athletes and coaches were giddy.”
The Jackrabbits return four starters in Teddy Flores, Nick Cruz, Chaz Pruett, and Reece Hammond, and will feature a pair of incoming freshmen in Markus Cruz and Colin Soohoo, as well as a pair of juniors competing in goal in Charlie Lemmis and Brendan McPherson.
Lakewood co-head coaches Deb Caine and Max Taylor echoed the sentiments of the other coaches.
“I want us to simply have fun, cherish this moment, and be thankful for the opportunity,” said Caine. “I know a lot of guys were struggling with the point of even practicing if we weren’t going to play. So I just want everyone to enjoy the short season because we didn’t think we were going to get one.”
The Lancers will be led by returning goalie Blake Borders, as well as Soren Widmann and Hayden Larson. The top newcomers will be Ryan Martinez and Delmar Frazier, who are expected to make a big impact on varsity this season.
With Jordan sitting out this season, it’s going to be Lawrence Durand’s Cabrillo team trying to break into the top four in the league this year, and Durand’s team is so good he’s still lamenting the loss of playoffs due to COVID-19.
“It hurt us tremendously, we have a team that rivals 2018,” said Durand, comparing this year’s team to his Division 7 semifinals of two seasons ago. “We will never know if we would be the Goliath in the Division 7 playoffs.”
The Jags will be led by the “Three Amigos” as Durand calls them: Nate Lucindo, Guy Gainer, and Jose Mejia, all four-year varsity players now in their senior seasons. The four varsity juniors Gabriel Gastaneda, Mateo Jimenez, Tlaloc Morales, and Chris Caracoza provide depth.
Moore League Standings 2019
1- Wilson 18-10, 5-0
2- Millikan 16-9, 4-1
3- Poly 13-12, 3-2
4- Lakewood 7-13, 1-4
5- Jordan 5-14, 1-4
6- Cabrillo 4-16, 1-4