Both Burroughs High and Burbank navigated through the last boys' water polo season headed by first-year coaches. Now it is the girls' teams turn to do the same, with both the Indians and Bulldogs welcoming new head coaches to captain their programs.
Continuing to parallel each other, both schools will turn to a former Indians player to replace a departing head coach with the name of Garcia.
At Burroughs, Michael Singhanate steps in for Danny Garcia, while at Burbank, Allyson Young takes over for Kristina Garcia (no relation).
The Indians have experienced success over the last few seasons, and Singhanate inherits a squad brimming with experience.
"Our priority is our defense, first and foremost. We're working on staying ahead and keeping the pressure high on defense," said Singhanate, a 2008 Burroughs graduate who also took over the boys' program this past season.
Burbank is looking to get some stability with its third coach in as many seasons, although Young comes in with a leg up after serving as an assistant last year.
One thing that is certain for both schools is that they will once again be chasing Crescenta Valley for the Pacific League championship. The Falcons, who were undefeated in league play last season and went on to win their first CIF Southern Section Division V title, enter the campaign ranked No. 1 in the preseason CIF poll.
Burroughs also is on the radar in Division V, landing at No. 9 after finishing 13-10 a year ago in Garcia's final season in charge.
"When I graduated Burroughs, my coach offered me a position to come back and assist, but I thought I'd continue with my education and come back to it when time permitted," Singhanate said. "This year, I heard that one of my former teammates, Danny Garcia, was moving on from coaching toward his goal, so I jumped on the opportunity to coach at my alma mater."
The Indians will put a squad in the pool loaded with experience. Key returners on varsity will be Kailee Groveman, Cheyenne Morrison, Sara Jung and Aliya Ehde, who all have been helpful in teaching the newer Indians some of the finer points of the game, according to Singhanate. Also returning will be Sofia Piedrahita, who will take over the hole/set duties.
However, they have a large void to fill in front of the net after All-Area goalkeeper Ahsha Earwood's graduation. That job will go to sophomore Kate Wilke.
"She's a phenomenal goalie and has improved much since summer," Singhanate said. "I can't wait to see what she'll put out for us."
Burroughs has finished second in the Pacific to CV each of the last two years and made the playoffs. Two seasons ago, the Indians got their first-ever home playoff win before being ousted on the road in the quarterfinals. Last season, after going 6-3 in league, ended with a 7-2 loss in the first round on the road to Lompoc Cabrillo.
"I have high expectations for league and the postseason this year," Singhanate said. "I think we have a good shot of making CIF again. When it comes to strong teams such as CV, we'll be bringing our 'A' game. As a team, our girls don't let the gossip get to them. I look forward to seeing how much we accomplish this season with their mentality and skill."
For Burbank and new head Coach Young, it is in the midst of an ongoing learning process and results will not necessarily be the focus of the season.
"I am not really worrying about beating any teams," Young said. "I am just worrying about getting my girls ready for the upcoming season."
Young is a graduate of Burroughs, where she played water polo in each of her four years for the Indians. She then continued her competitive experience as a two-year player at Los Angeles Valley College. However, Young is already acclimated to now being a Bulldog after serving as an assistant to former Coach Kristina Garcia, who broke even at 11-11 in her first and only year heading Burbank.
The Bulldogs went 3-4 in the Pacific last season and finished fifth, one spot out of the playoffs.
Young will be looking for production and leadership from seniors Ryan Bettencourt and Juliana Vitagliano, as well as junior Lala Herpetian. The coach also looks forward to contributions from the younger players, with sophomore Stella Aghakian expected to be a key player.
"Our main goal is to help the girls understand the game and help them become better players," Young said of her goals for her inaugural season steering the Bulldogs' ship.