Huntington Beach High senior Saxon Varon is acutely aware of how uncommon his name is.
He has the rare privilege of simply typing in his first and last name, in that order, to form a Twitter handle.
Varon knows the story of how he got his name. His parents chose the first names for his older brother, Kane, and himself out of a name book.
Recently, Varon gained a curiosity for his own background, and he took a 23andMe DNA test to find out. The results came back mostly British and Irish, which these days would provide pretty good bloodlines for soccer.
Ireland made it out of the Group Stage in Euro 2016, and England advanced to the World Cup semifinals in Russia this year.
Varon played soccer in his youth, but he had a decision of his own to make. He had also picked up water polo, doing so with a desire to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
“I was trying to balance both, but I was always making one coach mad,” Varon said. “I decided that I enjoyed playing water polo and practicing that more. I decided to go full-force into water polo when I was like 11 or 12.”
A late arrival to the pool party, Varon had to put in the work to earn his place on his teams. He remembers playing on the ‘B’ team for Vanguard Aquatics.
By his second year on the 14-and-under squad during his eighth-grade year, Varon had worked his way up to the ‘A’ team. It was at that point that he began to discover an identity for himself in the pool.
“I was the utility guy,” Varon said. “I was one of the passers who would facilitate passes throughout the game and have a vision to where I could see passes and where defenders would be.
“Rather than being the top scorer of the game, I would be setting up our top scorer to finish the shot. That’s where I found … where I was best.”
The distributor facet of Varon’s game presented itself in the semifinals of the S&R Sport Invitational at the Woollett Aquatics Center on Oct. 6. Huntington Beach trailed by a goal inside of a minute to go against San Jose Bellarmine Prep. In need of a quick score, Varon spotted Chase Dodd swimming to the back post. He delivered a pass that Dodd was able to fire right away to tie the match.
Dodd’s goal left enough time on the clock that the Oilers were going to get an abbreviated possession at the end of regulation. Cooper Haddad made the most of it, rising over a defender to take a shot from eight meters out. It went off the crossbar and into the cage for the winning goal with five seconds remaining.
“Saxon can read the game very well,” said Huntington Beach senior attacker Jack Reid, who once battled for the same position as Varon after transferring from Mater Dei last season. “I think he brings a lot of energy to the pool. We feed off Saxon as our energy motivator. That’s Saxon’s role on our team.”
After his team notched a 15-14 overtime victory over Dana Hills and a 14-13 come-from-behind win in the final minute against Bellarmine Prep, Varon credited the team’s commitment to unity for the Oilers’ ability to come through in the clutch moments.
“It showed how our team unity and our compatibility with each other have prospered,” Varon said.
Oilers coach Sasa Branisavljevic, who has also coached Varon at an age-group level, says that Varon has grown to be a very team-oriented player who understands his role and what it takes to win.
Varon is a big reason why Huntington Beach, which took a 12-10 record into the second day of the North vs. South Tournament on Saturday, is ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll.
“Saxon is a very selfless player who places the team ahead of his personal desires,” he said. “That’s really the most important thing. Really, everything derives from there.
“Saxon is able to lead, carry the team on his back, at times. He is left-handed, so that right side is convenient for him. He gets quite a bit of minutes, and he’s done a good job on defense.”
Even in high school, Varon has had to work for everything he has achieved. He did not have a clear role on the varsity team until his junior year. He worked extensively on his defense to turn himself into an asset.
“I always worked on my defense because as my coach always says, ‘You have to attack them on defense in order to be able to get them on offense,’” Varon said. “On six-on-five, it’s me versus the shooter, if I’m guarding the post. If he scores on me, then he beat me. If I block him, then I beat him. It’s just a mind game.”
At the start of his senior year, Varon faced a different kind of challenge. He ruptured his eardrum when he was accidentally struck by Reid during a flutter-kick set.
Varon missed 2½ weeks of action due to the injury, and he said it will require surgery at the end of the season.
“I didn’t know that it was ruptured until like four days after, and I had an ear infection in my inner ear,” Varon said. “It didn’t heal. I still have a hole in my ear, but I just put an earplug in. The doctor said that it shouldn’t do any permanent damage.”
Born: Dec. 29, 2000
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 5 feet 10
Weight: 185 pounds
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Sasa Branisavljevic
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite movie: “The Benchwarmers”
Favorite athletic moment: Varon enjoyed taking in the Oilers’ run to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 final as a reserve during his sophomore year. The Oilers lost 9-7 to Orange Lutheran in the championship game.