Long Beach Poly Water Polo

Girls’ Water Polo Preview: Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits

The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.

The562’s coverage of boys’ water polo is sponsored by Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.

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.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.

The Long Beach Poly girls’ water polo team is growing under second-year coach Ryan Rockenbach, with more girls in the program and expectations of making school history. The team finished with a winning record last year at 13-11 and took third place in the Moore League behind Wilson and Millikan. The Jackrabbits return their top two goalscorers and goalie this year, and are hoping to accomplish something rare.

“One of our season goals is the Poly girls team has only gone past the first round of CIF once and that was the year we went to the Finals,” said Rockenbach. “We want to be the second Poly team to do that this year.”

The Jackrabbits are in Division 3 for the CIF-SS playoffs and are on the preseason watch list for the division after a tough first-round playoff last year.

“We want to build on that for sure,” said Rockenbach.

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The Jackrabbits return leading goalscorers Ariel Cordova and Anna Mor, as well as goalie Sienna Groves. They also return fourth-year varsity player and senior captain Jackie Hahn.

“It’s a really strong core, and after that it’s a lot of new varsity players, more than half my team is in their first year on varsity,” said Rockenbach. “So it’s going to be building from that core group out and trying to get a good team dynamic going.”

With Hahn and Groves as his captains, Rockenbach likes his team’s chances to gel and be ready to go by the start of league play.

“They’ve both done a great job, we have a very supportive program and we do a lot of team bonding,” said Rockenbach. 

The Jackrabbits went on a team retreat at a camp in Irvine to help jumpstart that process, and Rockenbach has also been able to see his team in action enough to get a sense of who the good newcomers are. Marcy Leonor was a freshman on varsity last year who’s back and has big expectations as she works into the starting lineup. 

“It’s going to be a different team tactically this year, last year we had quite a few offensive threats and a lot of presence in center,” said Rockenbach. “We’re going to be different this year--returning our goalie allows us to have some defense freedom, that’s a luxury. Offensively we’ll be a little more creative.”

One of the things that’s been fun for Rockenbach since taking over as varsity coach is the camaraderie around the league, where many of the coaches are now lifelong friends of his.

“Our generation is kind of taking over, we all went to LBUSD schools and competed against each other,” he said. “We’re all friends outside the pool, and we’re all competitive people. I think there’s a shift hopefully towards bringing up the whole city.”

Rockenbach also said the culture on campus at Poly has been healthy, with Ish Pluton running both water polo and swim teams on the boys’ side and Kalani Caldwell the stalwart girls’ swim coach. Rockenbach is an assistant coach for Pluton’s water polo team and the girls’ swim team.

“We all work together, we all have similar goals,” he said. “It’s a great situation at Poly right now, and the core pillars of our program are all the same so that helps going in between different teams for me.”

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.