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The Long Beach Poly boys’ water polo program continues to grow under sixth-year head coach Ish Pluton, also a Jackrabbit alum and former players. Pluton and other Poly coaches recently started a club program, the 562 Water Polo Club, to serve as a feeder program for the Jackrabbits, and they’re already seeing dividends.
“Some of our younger players from the last couple years are now freshmen coming in with water polo skills, which is not something we normally have a lot of,” said Pluton. “We’ve got kids with base knowledge, which is phenomenal. I’m hoping we see that make a difference in the next few years.”
That being said, if Poly is to challenge for a Moore League title–they haven’t won since 2007 and that was their only league crown since the late 1970s–Pluton is aware that this year the challenge is even taller than usual. With Wilson nationally-ranked and looking like a contender for top team in the state, they’re out in front of Poly and Millikan and the other local teams. Pluton isn’t complaining about the Bruins ascending back to national status.
“I think it’s a good thing when we have a team like that,” said Pluton. “Think about the national scale–when there’s a Max Irving playing in the Olympics that puts the city on the map for water polo, and it helps inspire kids here to play. When Wilson does well, we do well as a community. Do I want to beat them? Sure. But am I happy that they’re good? Always.”
That being said, the Jackrabbits have a strong team this year with reason to be optimistic about the future. Poly has 11 seniors in the program, but a lot of young talent in the starting lineup.
“We’re seeing this nice momentum continuing to build,” said Pluton, who is an on-campus teacher/coach.
The Jackrabbits have Charlie Lemmis and Brendan McPherson back in goal, as the seniors will split time this season the way they did in the Spring.
Junior Reece Hammond and Markus Cruz are both lefties, and Cruz will be joined on varsity by his younger brother, a freshman. Chaz Pruett is a senior that Pluton is excited to see in the water this year.
“He’s a super dynamic, hard-working creative player that we’re going to see a lot of offensive output from,” said Pluton.
Poly is also hosting the Long Beach Invitational this weekend, with Wilson and Millikan participating. The Jackrabbits are looking forward to a rematch with Millikan after a splitting a pair of games with them in the Spring. More than anything, Pluton said he’s looking forward to what will hopefully look more like a “normal” season that’s taking place at the right time, with playoffs coming after.
“The Winter wasn’t the prettiest water polo I’ve ever coached,” he said. “I’m glad we got a season but it was definitely a challenge. This season I think we can make a pretty impact, we’re poised for a really strong season.”