Both the Burroughs and Burbank girls’ water polo teams lost key players to graduation.
Some of those players provided a large chunk of offense for their respective squads.
This season, the Indians and Bulldogs are looking for current players to step up and fill the roles in hopes of being competitive in the Pacific League and making a run at the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
The Indians are coming off one of the most productive seasons in program history. A year ago, Burroughs went 12-6, 6-2 in league for second place, advancing to the league-championship match and narrowly losing to Crescenta Valley, 8-6.
The Indians also played their way to the Division VI quarterfinals, losing in sudden-death double-overtime, 4-3, to host Tustin.
“We lost some big players from last year,” Burroughs coach Jacob Cook said. “Those players were a big part of us being successful last year. But that’s how it goes and you have to move on.”
Two key all-league players who graduated were senior attacker Gwen Turla and senior hole/set Bianca Sanchez. Turla led Burroughs in scoring with 57 goals and averaged 3.2 goals a game, while Sanchez was second on the team in scoring with 51 goals.
The Indians do return a successful all-league player from a year ago in junior goalkeeper Emma Nathan, who had 150 saves.
Another key all-league returner is senior utility Aleah Orozco, who tallied 30 goals.
“We will be looking for Aleah to step up this season and take control on offense,” Cook said.
Also returning is senior utility Amy Berberyan.
Burroughs has been dealing with a distraction recently and the team has been displaced while the campus pool has undergone repairs.
“That has been tough,” Cook said. “The pool has been down the last couple of weeks and that has forced is to practice at Verdugo [Park pool], but that has limited our practices. So, we really haven’t practiced as much as I would have liked.
“But this is a good group and they have been willing to work hard and they have a good attitude.”
With the loss of its core from a year ago, Cook said his team might struggle at times.
“I think this is going to be a rebuilding year and it’s going to be a work in progress,” he said. “We have a lot work to do and we haven’t had many consistent full practices.
“I expect [Crescenta Valley] to again be the top team in league.”
The Bulldogs finished 7-13 and 2-5 (tied for fifth place) in the Pacific League last season and didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
Burbank did lose its top two players to graduation, and in addition, has been without it’s coach heading into the season.
Coach Allyson Young has been on maturity leave and hopes to get clearance from her doctor to return poolside soon.
“It’s been tough since I’ve been away,” Young said. “I’m hoping to get back to the team so I can see what we have. We have some girls who have never been on varsity before, so I know that is going to be a big transition for them.”
Lost to graduation was senior driver Sune Aghakian and senior senior utility Lexi Lyneis. Aghakian had 41 goals, 19 steals and seven assists and Lyneis scored 27 goals to go with 16 assists, as both players earned all-league accolades.
Returning to help pace the Bulldogs is a group of seniors, goalkeeper Suzie Misiryan, driver Michelle Morlock, set/defender Patil Minassian and utility Camila Salas.
“Those are my seniors, and those are the players I’m expecting to step up and hopefully be able to lead us,” Young said. “Some of these players have been with me and the program for a number of years.
“Especially with me being gone, those players have been here for four years, so they know what to expect and know what to do. It’s nice to know, if anything, they are taking control and helping the younger players.”
In league, Young said she’s not sure what to expect.
“I think a lot of teams are in the same spot where they lost some key players,” she said. “I think teams in our league lost a lot of their go-to players … but we’ll see. I think a lot is still up in the air.”