Millikan Water Polo

SEASON PREVIEW: Millikan Girls’ Water Polo

The562’s coverage of aquatic sports in Long Beach is sponsored by the Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.

The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2023-24 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.

Millikan girls’ water polo is hitting the reset button ahead of their 2023-24 season after making an impressive run last year in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. The Rams’ have tough challenges ahead of them while welcoming new faces around the building.

The most recent addition to the Rams’ comes in the leadership of new head coach Mike Carillo. The LBCC alumni has coached all levels of club water polo for the past two years, and is eager to soak up everything he can in his first year coaching high school water polo.

“I think with me, and what we have here at Millikan, we are just eager to learn everything right now,” Carillo said. “It’s new to me, I’m new to these girls, and I’m still figuring out how everything works with high school, so it’s just an eagerness to experience and learn and watch other teams. And we’re constantly adapting. We’re learning how to work with each other, I’m learning how to coach them, and our mindset is open to new experiences and challenges.”

Carillo is getting a rather inexperienced varsity group up to speed as the Rams are without their six graduating seniors, five of which who started. That leaves senior Larsen Jensen as the lone starter returning.

“Her as a leader definitely popped out,” Carillo said of Jensen. “A few other seniors have been coming out too now knowing that they have to be ready to go. I need that as a coach to see who else is gonna step up, so it’s nice to have her amongst others who understand that we’re late to the game with getting things going but we’re still strong and can be something that can compete as one.”

The Rams’ have yet to name their starters, but the offense should flow around leaders like Jensen, as well as seniors Simone Mack, Dani Fernandez, Jorja Neumann, Devon Fletcher and Angelina Keller. Meanwhile, goaltender Kiara Maze will hold it down in the cage for the Rams with junior Hailey Suttle getting in the mix as well.

The young group has high expectations heading into the season after the Rams deep run in the Division 2 playoffs last year when they beat Camarillo, Poly Riverside, and Dana Hills. Millikan eventually lost in the championship game to Murrieta Valley in a 7-6 nail biter.

Their path to success won’t be as easy this year while being bumped up to Division 1.

“One game at a time, one practice at a time,” Carillo said of his approach. “We need to own up to being D1, which is great. Some schools have been trying to get to D1, so we are looking at it like yes, we’re now gonna face more challenges, but we should be happy that we’re here. So pressure, but no pressure. We’re new to the division so we’re gonna learn how to adapt and keep up with these other teams and keep the intensity going. We’re here for a reason, so we want to continue our success as best as we can.”

The Rams open their season hosting Yucaipa on Wednesday, Nov. 15th at 4:00pm.

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Eli Aquino
Eli Aquino is a high school student with plenty of writing and technology skills. He has a healthy knowledge and passion for sports and looks to take on journalism as a future career.