Jack White gets it a lot.
At this point, it’s become second nature to the Newport Harbor High senior.
“Every time I introduce myself to someone, they’ll always bring up the band the White Stripes,” said White, who shares the same name as that band’s front man. “I listen to some of their music, but I’m not like a diehard fan.”
A seven nation army couldn’t hold White back as the Sailors boys’ water polo team faced Mater Dei in a nonleague home game on Sept. 6. He led Newport Harbor with four goals and four steals as the Sailors earned a 7-5 victory.
The matchup of the top two teams in Orange County went Newport Harbor’s way, and it meant a lot to White. It was a long time coming for the Sailors, who hadn’t beaten the defending CIF Southern Section Division 1 Monarchs since 2009. That’s more than half a lifetime ago for a 17-year-old like White.
White was especially proud of the team’s defense. The Sailors blanked the Monarchs in the first quarter and opened up a 4-1 lead in the second.
“I just think that something we’ve been lacking the past couple of years is that this year, we’re hungry to play defense,” said White, who led the team with 76 steals as a junior in addition to scoring 58 goals, which was second on the team to Makoto Kenney. “That’s like our No. 1 goal. We’re getting more powerful and smart on the counterattack, which helps us out a lot too. We have good centers that do a lot of work for us, which helps our offense as well. But we’ve working all preseason on defense, and it’s finally showing. After all of that work in the preseason, seeing it be displayed, especially against a top team like Mater Dei … it feels really good just watching it all come down.”
White is like the Sailors’ coach, Ross Sinclair, in that he preaches defense. White’s favorite game of his career so far was winning the Battle of the Bay game last year, because the Sailors shut down rival Corona del Mar en route to an 8-2 victory.
Junior Reed Stemler is the team’s main set defender, but White said anyone on the team can play defense at two meters if needed. Blake Jackson, another junior, has stepped up as starting goalkeeper after the graduation of last year’s Sunset League MVP, Max Sandberg.
The emphasis on defense fits into the personality of White, Sinclair said.
“One thing that I’ve liked about Jack since I first met him is that he’s very tenacious,” Sinclair said. “He really enjoys the opportunity to compete. I think he realized when he was a sophomore his role to play. We didn’t need a goal scorer, so he found a role. He was coming up with some defensive plays, and then last year there was more of a role to really showcase his abilities. He wants to impact the game by any means necessary.
“He’s a really good athlete, which helps a lot. But I think the thing that separates him from other people is that he really thrives on the opportunity to compete. I think he likes when people are watching his games. He’s like a performer. He’s into that.”
Newport Harbor, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2, is a contender this season. The Sailors participated in the prestigious Elite Eight tournament at Harvard-Westlake for the first time this weekend. The difficult Surf League of the Sunset Conference starts Monday, when Newport Harbor hosts Laguna Beach, No. 6 in Division 1 and 2, at 4 p.m.
White is one of just two returning starters this year for Newport Harbor, along with Kenney, who was last year’s Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year. He’s happy that the Sailors are back in the conversation.
Newport Harbor lost in the Division 1 first round in 2015, the quarterfinals the following year and the semifinals last year. The Division 1 final, somewhere the Sailors haven’t been since 2009 – there’s that year again – seems like the logical next step.
“We were kind of in the dark ages, I guess, but it just feels really good to bring it back to where it was,” White said. “That’s why we’re so eager to win a championship this year. We have a lot of history, a lot of CIF titles , and we just want to keep adding to that and bring Newport back.”
This Jack White may not be a rock star, but water polo isn’t the only part of his life. He has a 4.0 weighted grade-point average at Newport Harbor. White and fellow water polo senior Jonny Rimlinger helped start the Newport Beach chapter of the community service organization Lion’s Heart.
In terms of water polo, though, White hopes to end his high school career with a CIF title in the sport he’s been playing since he was 8. One of four team captains, he wants to help lead the Sailors there.
“He’s pretty driven,” Sinclair said.
Born: May 1, 2001
Hometown: Newport Harbor
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 170 pounds
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Ross Sinclair
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “Surf’s Up”
Favorite athletic moment: Helping Newport Harbor beat cross-town rival Corona del Mar 8-2 in last year’s Battle of the Bay game.