Water polo is as popular as ever at Tracy High, where coach Keith Britt, the head coach of the boys and girls varsity teams and boys and girls junior varsity teams, counted 64 players at the start of the 2012 season.
After a preseason schedule of tournaments and head-to-head matchups, the Bulldogs get into a five-team, two-round league season.
“Every year, we try to make the top three (that go to playoffs). Our league is competitive,” Britt said.
Lodi is the defending San Joaquin Athletic Association champion, and Lincoln was the 2011 runner-up. Tracy’s varsity boys went 0-8 in league in 2011, while the girls went 2-6, beating only Franklin.
“Bear Creek has gotten better;
… Franklin has improved,” Britt said. “Our goal is to get better every day and win as many games as we can. We’ve got experience and our numbers are way up.”
Tracy’s girls team includes a large core of seniors, including Courtney Eddy, Allie Britt, Allyssa Blades, Annie Foote, Sarah Agee and Olivia Perea, in addition to returning junior goalie Dallyce Marglon. In all, there are 17 girls on the varsity team and 17 on the JV team.
Last year, Britt consolidated the boys teams into one big varsity team with no junior varsity. Eight of those players graduated in June, and this year Casey Bishop, Blake Adams and Austin Lowe are the only returning seniors.
For 2012, Tracy has 14 varsity boys and 16 JV boys. Six returning juniors include goalies Chaz Samaniego and Vincent Mello and teammates Chris Kennedy, Anthony Singh, Michael Motyka and Aaron Knapp. Sophomores on the varsity team are Chris Ramon, Austin Meyer and Taylor Mellick.
Tracy High opened its water polo season Friday, Aug. 24, with a home match against Pacheco High of Los Banos. The Bulldogs won at three of four levels.
Tracy’s varsity girls took an early lead against Pacheco and stayed strong through the second half for the 21-7 win. Leading scorers were Britt and Agee with four goals each. Makennah Bailey scored three; Shelby Gregory, Nicolette Rocha and Foote scored two each; and Kianna Rivera, Lane Fishburn, Samantha Williams and Eddy also scored goals. Marglon had eight saves, an assist and two steals.
After a close first half, the Bulldog varsity boys edged ahead in the third and fourth quarters for the 10-8 win over Pacheco. Adams, Ramon, Singh and Lowe each scored two goals, and Knapp and Mellick also scored. Samaniego had nine saves, an assist and two steals.
West High’s water polo teams have a shorter league schedule this year, which coaches hope will translate to a more competitive overall schedule as the Wolf Pack teams head to more tournaments.
West has three opponents in the Tri-City Athletic League. Defending league champion St. Mary’s and runner-up Tokay usually dominate, while West consistently beats McNair.
The Wolf Pack boys and girls both went 3-6 in last year’s three-round league season, and this year, it will be a two-round league season.
West High has mustered just enough players to fill the varsity squads and will have no junior varsity teams. The majority of the varsity boys is returning seniors.
“We all know each other and have a strong bond as a team,” senior Matt Dunniway said.
He added that he and fellow seniors Ken Kurita, Kevin Oetken, Romeo Francisco and Jacob Thomassen have been playing water polo together at West since their freshman year. Bradley McCain joined the team last year as a junior. West has nine boys in all.
“If we practice hard enough and condition as well as we have been, I think we stand a pretty good chance against (Tokay and St. Mary’s),” Dunniway added. “It all comes down to our conditioning and training.”
Dunniway said that coach Bob Kuks pushes the team hard during workouts, and Kuks said his hope is that his team ends up with competitive matchups.
“Because of the two-round season, we’ve had a chance to add on a lot of teams that are more our caliber, so there will be a lot of competitive games.”
Pat Windschitl is the new coach for the girls water polo team. His goal is to build interest in water polo so more players turn out for future teams.
“I’m just looking for them to have fun and enjoy themselves and help build the program,” he said.
Junior Geraldine Vasquez said that as long as new players learn to work as a team with the returning players, the season will be successful.
“Even though we might not win every game, at least we’re doing everything right,” she said.
Vasquez and fellow juniors Madison Tessera and Cassidy Waters are the returning girls from the 2011 season. Marylou Manzo, Ahimee Trujillo, Lucy Schermesser and Emily Stoica have joined the team this year.
West High’s water polo teams opened their seasons with a trip to Pacheco High in Los Banos on Monday, Aug. 27, netting wins at both the varsity boys and the varsity girls levels.
West’s girls dominated with a 21-1 win. In addition to the offensive onslaught, the Wolf Pack defense allowed just five shots on goal. Vasquez led West with 10 goals. Waters scored six goals, Tessera and Schermesser scored two each, and Trujillo also added one. Goalie Stoica had four saves.
West’s varsity boys beat Pacheco 15-8. Oetken led the Wolf Pack with four goals for the day. McCain and Kurita scored three goals each, Francisco scored two, and Azero Alcala, Jason Bussey and Dunniway also scored goals. Goalie Thomassen had eight blocks.
Kimball High’s teams are still in the building stage, but girls coach Matt Gumpert figures his team gained a head start when most of the girls competed in the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics in San Jose in early August with the Ellis Aquatics team.
Returning seniors Colby Chase, Julihanna Mandeville and Sydnie Black and sophomore Kaitlyn Traut were all part of that Junior Olympic team, as were juniors Valerie Wong and Jhacky Romero and sophomores Tahnee Trew and Courtney Moberg.
“Last year, we struggled and we were really young,” Gumpert said. “It was harder, because we were still growing.”
Kimball’s girls went 4-6 in the Valley Foothill League in 2011, and the boys went 6-8 in the VFL, because Ripon and Pacheco had boys teams only.
This year, the Jaguars are playing in the Valley Oak League, which will have four boys teams and four girls teams, including Oakdale, Sonora, and Ripon.
“That makes it rough, because all of those are good teams,” Gumpert said. “For the boys, it’s even harder, because Ripon’s boys team is great. For girls, they have a solid team.”
Boys coach Erin Mann said he has only a couple players returning from last year’s boys team, including Steven Cole, the only senior on the team, and junior Trevor Trew. Otherwise, the team is heavy on juniors moving up from last year’s junior varsity team and also includes Logan Steinburger, a freshman who played Junior Olympics water polo over the summer.
“We’re building, and we were working out butts off all summer long,” Mann said. “I really want to be strong, and that’s our goal.”
The Kimball teams started their season with matches as Lincoln High in Stockton on Tuesday, Aug. 28. Lincoln won the girls varsity game 11-4 and the junior varsity game 11-5. Lincoln’s varsity boys beat Kimball 21-8. Lincoln also won the JV boys game, for which the final score was not available.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.