The Wilson girls’ water polo team is going for its third league championship in a row, and has only lost two since the Moore League added the girls’ game in the 2001-02 school year. The Bruins return some great players and have yet again added another talented freshman class with Olympic Development Program experience.
“The girls are excited, we’re ready to go,” said Wilson coach Barry O’Dea. “The district’s done what they needed to get us some league games, it’s all gravy.”
O’Dea said his team was staying ready as he’s been tracking COVID-19 numbers every day hoping to get his team in the pool for some competitive games.
“I was not going to shut down right up until March 20,” he said. “I had a feeling we’d be able to get something in.”
The Bruins return three first-team All-Moore League players from last year as well as the talented Ava Bishop, who had a hand injury last season. Ava Smith, a senior, has signed with Marist College, and Kayley Stigar has signed with Pomona-Pitzer.
O’Dea’s daughter, Maya O’Dea, is one of those talented young ODP players in the sophomore class alongside Zoe Grover. The incoming freshman class along with next year’s freshman class won fifth place in the nation at the Junior Olympics as age group players, so the future is bright for the Bruins.
Jose Guzman’s Millikan squad were the runner-ups last year in the Moore League, and Guzman said he’s happy his senior-laden team gets a chance to play this year after making a historic CIF-SS playoff run last winter, shortly before the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Our program is extremely happy they are going to have some sort of season this year, especially the seniors,” he said. “It seemed that all hope was lost.”
Melanie Flores, Evelyn Giron, Sydney Neumann, and Emma Robertson are all seniors, with returning standout Jennine Osorio a very talented sophomore. The team has also added a strong freshman in Larson Jenson.
Long Beach Poly has a good group of returners for coach Brandon D’Sa this year, having lost only two starters from last season.
Georgia Buffington is back as the team’s standout senior, and is joined by junior Julia Miller and sophomores Jackie Hahn and Sharon Vargas, as well as freshman standout Ana Capetankis, who will start this year.
“We definitely want to beat our competition, but this year’s focus has been more on how we can improve our skills than winning games,” said D’Sa. “Every girl on my team has gone the extra mile to make sure they can play this year and have been preparing for this kind of moment since the summertime. They couldn’t be more happy and ready to compete.”
Lakewood coaches Deb Caine and Max Taylor had a core of sophomores on varsity last year who are back as juniors this season, and they’re expecting Danny Sgontz, Carah Beaird, and Gracie Isaacson to lead the way this year, with Brooke Baze and Evelyn Waffle adding depth.
“My only goal and focus is to have fun and cherish this moment,” said Caine. “We have all been through so much and when we didn’t have water polo to fall back on, it was driving us all a little stir crazy. Now that we get this opportunity, I want to make sure we don’t take it for granted.”
For Kelsey Schafter’s Jordan squad, the goal is to enjoy the two week period where they’re allowed to play.
“Our goal is to gain more water polo experience, have a great time, and stay safe,” she said.
The Panthers have a strong senior group in Kimberly Lopez, Genesis Mata, Ashonte Wilson, Jazmine Dediego and Emily Osorio.
For Emily View’s Cabrillo team, the leaders will be Esmerelda Torres and Alondra Nunez. Torres is a senior utility player who’s been in the program for four years, while Nunez is the team’s top goalie. View said that half of her team is brand new to the sport and looking forward to learning more about it this season–she also said the whole team was thrilled with the return to the pool.
“They were wondering if it was for real at first,” she said. “I haven’t seen this many athletes consistently or seen this many as happy as they have been this week in a year. There’s a different energy in the air knowing their hard work is for something.”
Moore League Standings 2020
Wilson 14-13, 5-0
Millikan 18-9, 4-1
Poly 8-19, 3-2
Lakewood 10-17, 2-3
Jordan 12-16, 1-4
Cabrillo 2-14, 0-5