In Chick McIlroy’s first year as Miraleste High water polo coach, his team reached the CIF-Southern Section 2-A playoffs but was eliminated in the first round.
The next year, 1987, the Marauders made it to the quarterfinals before losing to South Pasadena. Last year they lost in the first round.
“This year, I hope to go farther,” McIlroy said. “I have more talent on this team than any I’ve ever coached, but it’s also the most frustrating.”
Frustrating may the key word for Miraleste in 1989. All-Ocean League junior Zoltan Gyurko and two other players were suspended from at least one workout this week for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. McIlroy said Gyurko is working his way back onto the team but will not be in today’s game against Muir.
Gyurko may be out of the pool temporarily, but Palos Verdes transfer Todor Prlainovic won’t play a minute for the Sea Kings.
Prlainovic, a native of Yugoslavia who moved to the United States this summer, has been declared ineligible by the Southern Section because he is not part of an approved foreign exchange program, said Southern Section Commissioner Stan Thomas.
Considered a world-class junior player, Prlainovic averaged six goals a game this summer for the Sea Kings.
Even without the talented transfer, however, Palos Verdes is expected to be one of the best teams in the South Bay, if not the best.
Miraleste will challenge Palos Verdes for king of the hill and the South Bay.
At full strength, Miraleste is considered a contender for the 2-A title. The Marauders (4-3) are ranked seventh in the division.
McIlroy, though, was cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances before word of the suspensions came: “I believe we have the capability of being a Final Four team, but you’d never believe it, watching them play last week. It’s like being on a roller coaster coaching these guys.”
Miraleste lost to Loyola and Gahr last Saturday. The previous weekend, they beat three teams en route to the championship game of the Irvine tournament, where they lost to the 3-A Division’s top-ranked team, Capistrano Valley. The Marauders have also lost to Harvard, the fourth-ranked team in the 3-A.
Palos Verdes was the only South Bay team that went undefeated during summer league play, but that was with Prlainovic.
“We’re one of the best teams in the 3-A without (Prlainovic). With him, we’re No. 1,” said Palos Verdes Coach Jovan Vavic, whose team is ranked ninth in the division.
Perhaps the king of South Bay water polo will be crowned at the El Segundo Tournament on Oct. 6 and 7, when virtually all of the area’s teams will compete.
A closer look at the top teams in the South Bay:
Coach Vavic of Palos Verdes is lamenting the CIF ruling on Prlainovic, but don’t expect other coaches to be sympathetic. “No one can touch them in the South Bay,” Rolling Hills Coach Frank Akins said.
The Sea Kings return three seniors from last year’s Bay League championship team that won a school-record 20 games. They are Jeff Kimball, the team’s best driver and shooter, defensive specialist Chris Cormier and John Karambulas, the hole man and the No. 1 player on the team, according to Vavic.
Juniors Chris McAllister and Jason Chung are expected to contribute, as is junior goalie Mike Szilard, who has been “improving every day,” Vavic said.
Palos Verdes (6-3) could compete for the 3-A championship with or without Prlainovic. “I don’t expect to lose any more games, at least until the playoffs,” Vavic said.
“I’m beating my head against the wall, " McIlroy said of his young Miraleste team. “They’re having a hard time learning that there is no ‘I’ in team. The word is commitment, you have to do what’s necessary to win, thinking in terms of the team.”
One of only two seniors on the team, forward Duane Lauchengco is Miraleste’s co-captain and team leader, McIlroy said. The other co-captain is junior forward Kyle Hildebrand, who played on the national champion Junior Olympic team this summer. Hildebrand will team with other junior Olympians Gyurko and Neal Searing.
In goal for the Marauders is junior David Reed.
McIlroy said a win against Muir today would put Miraleste “in the right direction, but the team’s attitude won’t change overnight.”
Poised to challenge Miraleste for the Ocean League title is El Segundo. The Eagles posted a 5-20 record last year, but are much improved. “We’ll win at least as many as we’ll lose,” Coach Henry Stuart said. El Segundo was 7-7 during the summer.
But the Eagles are still young and might be a year away from serious title contention. Top players include senior Mike Whitney and the team’s fastest swimmer, junior Robert Ingersoll.
Chris Lubba, only a sophomore, is the Eagles’ new goalie. “He has big legs; he’s big and rangy and not afraid of the ball,” Stuart said.
“I’ve got my problems,” Mira Costa Coach Mike Nollan said. To be exact, Nollan has eight problems, replacing the seniors who graduated from last year’s CIF 2-A semifinalist team that went 23-9.
“We’re puting it together, but we have a way to go,” Nollan said. Leading the way will be senior captain Mike Mullen. Senior left-hander Noah Willard, last year’s top reserve, is this year’s potential top scorer.
Junior Joe Boyle is in goal after a distinguished frosh-soph career. “Joe is our shining light, " Nollan said. “He’s making us closer to where we want to be.”
Sophomore Roy Elliott, a CIF finalist in the 100-yard freestyle last spring, is the team’s swiftest swimmer.
At Chadwick, fourth-year Coach Brian Weaver has his Dolphins thinking they “can play with the big boys.” The Dolphins could wrest the Prep League title from Webb for the first time in eight years.
“Three years ago, the kids were mortally terrified to play some of the big public schools,” Weaver said. “Now we’re beginning to beat some of these teams.” Chadwick beat Redondo last week, 12-9.
Players like senior captain Brad Cebeci are creating a winning atmosphere at Chadwick. Cebeci is a four-year varsity starter, a three-year all-league selection and the school’s all-time leading goal scorer.
Rod Wallace, a 6-3 senior, is the Dolphins’ fastest swimmer and an aggressive player. Look for junior left-hander Chris Willoughby, leading Chadwick in scoring, to take some of the load off Cebeci.
In goal is basketball recruit Evan Calbi, playing water polo for the first time ever. “I recruited him when I saw him playing goalie in a street hockey tournament, " Weaver said.
Coach Mark Rubke of Redondo has had to recruit as well. But he only had to look to the side of the pool to ask junior Chrissy Johnson if she wanted to give up her statistics duties and give the young team a hand.
Johnson is one of the team’s fastest swimmers, but senior Larry Rodriguez, an All-Ocean League choice last year, is the outstanding player on the team.
After Rodriguez, there’s a serious drop-off in talent, age, and experience. “We’re so green you wouldn’t believe it,” Rubke said. Would you believe a freshman starting in goal? Travis Mayer gets the honors, three months after stepping out of an eighth-grade classroom.
Last week Mayer was blitzed for 23 goals, but Rubke gave him and the rest of his young team credit: “He’s (Mayer) handling the situation as maturely as you could expect of a freshman.”
Rolling Hills administered the 23-goal onslaught on Redondo, but frosh-soph Coach Frank Akins says the Titans are only an “average team this year.” Akins, now in his 23rd year at Rolling Hills, gave up the varsity post to former Rolling Hills standout Pete Showler.
Seniors Chris Hurrell, the hole man, and Chris Huettemeyer, the goalie, should lead the team. Mark Eaton, Trevor Lattin, and Alan Bergin will also contribute for the Titans.