The local boys’ water polo coaches at Burbank High and Burroughs know it’s going to be tough going in the Pacific League this season.
Glendale returns most of its team from a year ago when the Nitros advanced to the CIF Southern Section VI semifinals.
Hoover, which made it to the division quarterfinals in 2009, will be paced by junior Hakop Kaplanya, who tallied 229 goals to set a new California record.
In addition, Crescenta Valley has a strong water polo tradition and the Falcons seem to be able to reload with quality players every year.
“CV and Glendale are going to be really tough,” Burbank Coach Carlos Pelayo said. “They have that club program that has really helped the teams get better the past few years. And Hoover has their top player back…so it’s going to be tough.”
Burroughs Coach Danny Garcia agrees.
“Glendale has most of their players back from a very good team,” he said. “And with Hoover’s top player and CV usually up there, it’s going to be tough going in the league this year.”
With those three teams, it doesn’t leave much wiggle room for the Bulldogs and Indians when it comes to qualifying for the postseason.
With their share of returning players, the Bulldogs and Indians will likely be battling one another for the last playoff spot.
Here is a look at how the season is shaping up.
Garcia took over during the season in 2009, as the Indians struggled, going 1-5 in Pacific League play. The lone win was a 12-11 victory against cross-town rival Burbank in the regular-season finale.
“The team didn’t get the experience playing [nonleague matches] last year,” said Garcia, who inherited the limited schedule. “But this year we are going to have more competition. We are playing in tournaments and we are trying to build the program back up.”
The building included taking part in 18 matches during the summer.
“We lost some players from last year, but I think we have a good group overall,” said Garcia, a former player in the Burroughs program. “We have had a good turnout and the players have been really working hard to get ready for the season.”
Garcia said he has liked what he’s seen in sophomore driver Kevin Ueno and senior hole-set Martin Ortega-Jenisson,
Starting at the goalkeeper position is freshman Casey Ueno.
“Casey just plays so well for a freshman,” Garcia said. “The kid has great instincts and he knows what he’s doing in goal. He has impressed us with the way he has played.”
Sophomore drivers Daniel Mairena and Ryan Martensen will also be looked upon to contribute.
The Bulldogs went 6-15 in 2009 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years. With a number of returning players and a program that boasts 50 players across all levels, Pelayo is hoping his team will enjoy a turnaround.
“We’re really happy with the numbers we’ve been getting in the program,” said Pelayo, a former All-American at Crescenta Valley. “And the great thing is we have a lot of young players. Most of our team is made up of sophomores and juniors.”
Pelayo said although his squad is young, he thinks he has the players to contend for a playoff spot.
“We really want to make it back to the playoffs,” he said. “That is a major goal for us.”
Helping the team achieve that goal will be a group of four returning players. Pelayo is hoping that group will provide the core of his squad.
Returning will be junior two-meter Kevin Miller, junior wing Sam Akopyan, senior driver Dimitar Panchev and junior goalkeeper Jonas Padervinski.
“We have some other players who will be trying to earn starting spots,” Pelayo said. “That’s the good thing about this team; we have a few guys to choose from, so they will be working hard to try to make it on the varsity team.”