The Wilson Bruins girls’ water polo team has had a firm grip on the Moore League, shooting for their 11th straight league championship. But now that they’ve been moved to CIF-SS Division 3, expectations have been elevated and the Bruins are reaching higher.
“We’re still figuring out where we sit in CIF, but we see a real opportunity,” head coach Jeff Nesmith said. “We’re going for that title.”
“Our main goal is a CIF championship,” sophomore, and reigning Moore League Player of the Year, Brooke Gruneisen said. “We’ve set our minds on making a deep run into the playoffs and if we play our game, we should be rewarded.”
Wilson showcases an up-tempo offense with a counterattacking style, using its physicality on defense to get out in transition. Gruneisen demands attention in the middle of the offense and her playmaking abilities gets the ball to her attackers on the outside.
Premier swimmer, Mia Tedesco, returns for her senior water polo season. Tedesco is one of the top sprinters in CIF, placing third in Division 2 in the 50-yard freestyle at the CIF championships. She’ll be one of Gruneisen’s go-to options in transition.
“(Tedesco) has a great shot and it’ll be difficult to counter her speed,” Poly head coach Bill Brightenburg said.
The Bruins lost of few key seniors from last year’s team including Dream Team Player of the Year, Cameron Cordial. But Nesmith believes a good crop of young freshman talent should help fill the void.
“We have an incredible group of freshmen that are ready to contribute,” Nesmith said. “We’re reloading instead of rebuilding.”
Freshman Camryn Kruger will be in the cage for Wilson, while fellow freshman Maegan Simon will be an attacker on offense. Simon scored two goals in a game against Newport Harbor earlier this season.
Trying to chase down the Bruins in the pool this year is the Poly Jackrabbits. The young Jackrabbits of yesteryear are another year older, more experienced and Brightenburg says they’re ready to compete for a Moore League championship.
“We have so many weapons this season and have little more depth than last year,” he said. “We need to have confidence in ourselves. The goal is always to compete for a league championship, but I think we can battle for a Division title as well.”
Poly will compete in Division 4 of the CIF-SS giving them an opportunity to make a deep playoff run. The Jackrabbits have a handful of post-up players that are able to get position in the water, setting up scoring opportunities.
The offense runs through junior utility player Sydney Brightenburg, but when the defense collapses on her she’s able to get the ball to sharpshooting perimeter players. Junior driver Darby Huff and junior attacker Amanda Horton should step up for the Jackrabbits this season.
“We’ve been working on our weaknesses from last year and we have a lot of talent,” Sydney Brightenburg said. “We’re really good defensively and that will be our key.”
In the cage is senior goalie Elena Correa, who anchors Poly defensively. The strong Poly defense allows the Jackrabbits to get out in transition on the counterattack.
It’s been a solid start so far for the Jackrabbits as they stand at 4-3 on the season. Coach Brightenburg is optimistic that his team will continue to grow throughout the year.
“The girls don’t play together in the offseason so they still need to get in sync,” he said. “I’m sure that will happen when we get games under our belt.”
Youth will be the story this year for the always-competitive and gritty Millikan Rams water polo team. No Rams player has more than two years of experience on varsity, while no one on the team has more than four years of experience playing water polo.
“We have to get confident in our skills and apply it in games,” head coach Roy Contreras said. “Eventually it’s going to click and the light bulb will come on.”
“It’s going to be about getting stops on defense and finding the back of the cage,” he added. “If we do what we do well then it will put us in a position to win.”
Senior two-meter defender Alix Anderson leads the charge for the Rams. Contreras says his team will rely on her ability to defend two meters in order to set up the counter attack for Millikan’s speed on offense.
Junior attackers Sarah Martin and Sophia Sussman are the speedsters for the Rams offense. Fellow junior Sophie Garcia has a multidimensional game that can create mismatches for the defense.
Head coach Joe Joson says he’s trying to change the culture of the Lakewood girls’ water polo program and will be doing so with the help of four returning players. The Lancers are focused on defending and using their effort on defense to lead to offense.
“We want to be able to stop goals,” Joson said. “We’re more disciplined this season and we want to be a little more aggressive.”
In the cage for the Lancers is senior Katie Edson. She’ll be relied on heavily to deny opposing goal scorers and get Lakewood into transition. Senior two-meter player Isabella Duarte is another leader on this Lakewood team. The offense runs through Duarte, trying to get her isolated for goal scoring opportunities.
Senior Shannon Mendoza, sophomore Arstiana Modica and junior Sarah Capt bring the defensive pressure on the perimeter. They’ll also do their fair share of goal scoring for the Lancers.
The Jaguars are improving every year under head coach Lawrence Durand and he says this year’s team should go as far as their defense goes. The Cabrillo defense is anchored by goalie Lian Lumada who has been a wall in the cage throughout her career at Cabrillo.
Lumada had 340 saves in 15 games last year according to Durand, which ranked fourth all-time in CIF.