Often during critical moments of Royal High water polo games, Chris Richeson would rise out of the water, inciting noise from the crowd by motioning with his arms.
Sometimes during timeouts, Richeson could be heard offering advice to teammates, trying to keep them focused.
Richeson, The Times' all-region player of the year, was just doing his part as captain of the Highlanders.
But Royal Coach Steve Snyder said Richeson, a role player last year when the Highlanders won the Southern Section Division IV championship, had a hard time adjusting to the forefront.
"He got off to a slow start as leader of this team," Snyder said. "Last year, he fit in as a perfect role player. This year, it took him a while to take over."
Statistically, the left-handed Richeson was the team's leader from the start.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior finished with 136 goals, 89 assists and 89 steals, tops on the team. He earned Marmonte League most valuable player and Southern Section Division IV player of the year honors, and led the Highlanders to their second consecutive appearance in the division final.
"There never was a question of his ability in the pool," Snyder said. "He had an immediate impact as a 10th grader and has been a very influential player ever since."
Richeson's skills landed him on the U.S. junior national team, where he gained international experience last summer.
He is considering offers from UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, USC and Pepperdine.
The turning point for Richeson this season came when the Highlanders played Division III power Crescenta Valley in a nonleague game and league rival Agoura in the same week.
"I realized that I needed to take it to the next level," Richeson said.
The team followed.
Led by Richeson's 11 goals in the two games, Royal won both easily. Snyder said that it is no coincidence that Richeson's acceptance as a leader improved the team's play.
The Highlanders did not have another close game until the Division IV final, where they lost to Cabrillo, 11-10.
"He is almost like another coach out there," Snyder said.
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All-Region Water Polo / First Team
Crescenta Valley, Jr.
Set school season record with 316 saves and owns the career record with 463. The Pacific League most valuable player, he was selected to the All-Division III team and helped the Falcons reach the division quarterfinals.
La Canada, Jr.
The team leader in goals (65) and assists (55) despite missing 13 games with broken ribs. He was selected to All-Division III and All-Rio Hondo League teams and led La Canada to division quarterfinals.
An All-Southern Section Division IV selection, he scored 104 goals and led the Chargers to the division semifinals. Had 58 assists, 36 steals and was selected All-Marmonte League.
A defensive specialist, he had 70 steals and added countless intangibles. The All-Division IV and All-Marmonte League selection had 45 goals and 20 assists for the division runner-up.
The Wolverines' most valuable player, led the team in scoring, assists and steals. Scored 12 goals against Notre Dame. Was selected All-Mission League. Has committed to Penn.
Led the region with 161 goals, including 17 in one game. Named All-Almont League and All-Southern Section Division III for the second time. Is considering scholarship offers from Air Force and UCLA.
All-Region Water Polo Second Team
Ricky Bejune, Crespi, Sr.
Leading scorer for Celts with 83 goals. He was also best defensive player with 44 steals. Selected All-Mission League.
Aneel Chima, Buena, Sr.
Scored 51 goals to lead Bulldogs to three-way tie for Channel League title. Selected All-Channel League.
Noah Cirincione, Agoura, Sr.
All-Marmonte League selection had 51 goals, 39 assists and 38 steals. A second-team All-Division IV selection.
Garret Herzer, Royal, Jr.
Goalie had 282 saves for Marmonte League champions. Scored five goals and had 28 assists. Named All-Marmonte League.
Jamey Krauss, Calabasas, Sr.
All-Frontier League selection led Coyotes in goals and helped them reach the Division IV playoffs.
David Radka, Royal, Jr.
Second-leading scorer with 65 goals for Division IV finalists. He had 52 assists and 49 steals. Selected All-Division IV.
Phil Spataru, Harvard-Westlake, Jr.
All-Southern Section Division I selection provided all-around play for quarterfinalists.