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Huntington Beach High’s Tyler Padua commits to UC Irvine men’s water polo

Huntington Beach High School senior Tyler Padua is staying close to home, and will play college water polo at UC Irvine.
Huntington Beach High School senior Tyler Padua is staying close to home, and will play college water polo at UC Irvine.
(Courtesy of Tyler Padua)

Tyler Padua is aware of the talent that the Huntington Beach High boys’ water polo team brings back this year, after an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals last year.

Padua’s backhand goal gave the Oilers a one-goal lead over eventual champion Studio City Harvard-Westlake late in the third quarter of that semifinal match. They weren’t able to hold the lead in a 10-7 loss, and they also lost to the Wolverines in the semifinals of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs. Still, they served notice that they were a team on the rise.

“This year, it’s all out for us,” Padua said. “We really want that title. When was the last time you saw a public school win the Division 1 championship?”

The answer is El Toro in 2009, when Padua, now a senior center for the Oilers, was just 6 years old.

Regardless of a possible big finish to his high school career, Padua recently also made plans for his future. He has verbally committed to play men’s water polo at UC Irvine, he said Tuesday.

Padua becomes the second player from the Oilers’ class of 2021 to commit, joining left-hander Ethan Crooks (UCLA).

Padua said he chose UC Irvine over Air Force and Loyola Marymount University.

“With the whole global pandemic going on, I really wanted to stay kind of close to home,” he said. “The water polo program there is phenomenal, too. Also, their business school is great, which I plan on attending. Everything about that school, I just love.”

The Anteaters, coached by Marc Hunt, have other local talent on their roster. Huntington Beach graduate Jacob Pyle is a freshman goalkeeper for UCI, while Newport Harbor alumnus Jake Liechty is a sophomore attacker.

Padua, who is young for his grade as he just turned 17 in August, hopes to help Huntington Beach earn a ring this year. Coach Sasa Branisavljevic’s Oilers will have to replace Pyle in goal, but they return other top talent if the season starts in December as scheduled.

Attacker Chase Dodd and defenders Ryan Elkhouri and Graham Cope are other top rising seniors for Huntington Beach, which has made one CIF final in program history, in 2016.

“The expectation level this year is very high,” Padua said. “Last year, I think the bar was at 100%, we needed to leave everything out there. This year, I think honestly we’ve raised the bar from that. Now we’re at 110% … Sasa is just a phenomenal coach, and I think we really have a good shot this year.”

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