Long Beach Poly Water Polo

PREVIEW: Long Beach Poly Boys’ Water Polo

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.

The Long Beach Poly boys’ water polo team finds itself in a position it hasn’t been in for more than 90 years–defending CIF Southern Section champions. The Jackrabbits won the Division 4 title last year in thrilling fashion, and return several starters and six players who got major time in the pool on that historic squad. 

Poly is up in Division 2 this year and a repeat CIF-SS title won’t come easily. Neither would a Moore League title, but the Jackrabbits have their eyes set on both.

“In thinking about the recipe from last year to accomplish that big grand goal of winning CIF, that recipe was focusing on the details and hard work, so we’re not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves as far as expectations,” said Poly coach Ish Pluton, entering his seventh year coaching his alma mater. “It’s easy to get into big goals, it’s harder but better for us if we focus on all the things we can do to improve as a team to accomplish those goals.”

That doesn’t mean that the program isn’t hoping to hoist some more gold this year. With Poly returning a host of talent and Wilson having graduated some All-American and Division 1 studs, there’s no doubt that a lot of focus will be on the two teams’ meeting on October 12. Wilson has won the last 14 league titles in a row, and Poly hasn’t won since 2006–prior to that the Jackrabbits hadn’t won since 1976. Pluton said that his team’s success last year has brought out a ton of support for his Jackrabbits.

“It’s been really fun to get the wind behind our sails of support and encouragement,” he said. “That’s really motivated us to take the next steps–now that we’re a Division 2 team, what does it take to win there? Our kids are really paying attention to nutrition, they met with a nutritionist virtually on Wednesday. We’re trying to build into a really respectable and legitimate program to rival things on the other side of town.”

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Another thing Poly did was take an international Summer trip. Most of the team belong to the 562 Water Polo Club, which made a trip to Croatia where they spent every day training in the ocean courses underneath towering Croatian cliffs.

“The experience alone was the trip of a lifetime, and on top of that they learned an amazing amount of water polo,” said Pluton.

Returning in the water for the Jackrabbits is Reece Hammond, who will be a featured lefty attacker and one of the top talents around Southern California this season. Markus Cruz will be on that side as well, with Tyler Oatey and Billy Cruz also returning. Emerson LaPorta, Colin Sooho, and Nico Song also got time on last year’s championship team and made big plays in the team’s playoff run.

The only hole for the Jackrabbits is at goalie, where they graduated everyone from last year’s team. Mateo Morales will be one option, a JV call-up, and sophomore Sean Carey will be the other option for Poly. The team also has a pair of newcomers in Sam Lavid and Kyle Oate. Pluton said the Jackrabbits will likely be tinkering with positions over the next month as they prepare for Moore League play towards the end of the September. In the meantime they have playoff rematches with Portola, Palisades, and Pasadena Poly, all of whom are coming to Long Beach in September.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.