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Leading the La Cañada surge

Berit Kaesler might owe some of her athletic prowess to genetics.

Being the daughter of a German gymnast probably aided in giving her the foundation she needed to become a success.

“I used to be a swimmer and I used to play soccer,” said Kaesler, a standout aquatics athlete at La Cañada High. “But I was never that great at soccer, and swimming got really boring.

“Water polo seemed to be the perfect fit for me. Being able to swim and outswim other girls, [and] all the strength required.”

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Now that she has finished a successful season as a standout utility player for the Spartans girls’ water polo team, Kaesler is competing for the school’s swim team.

Whatever she does accomplish in swimming, it will be hard to trump what she was able to get done in water polo.

Kaesler was dominant during the 2008-09 season, scoring 69 goals to lead the team. In addition, she had 46 steals and 20 assists.

Her exploits helped lead La Cañada to the CIF Southern Section Division IV semifinals.

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It is because of those accomplishments that Kaesler has been voted the 2009 All-Area Girls’ Water Polo Player of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun.

“She’s very talented,” Spartans Coach Steve Silversparre said, “but she’s very humble.”

“That’s what this season was about for Kaesler, getting her to realize just how good she is.”

Kaesler was the leading scorer on one of the most impressive offenses in Division IV. La Cañada also featured senior Shannon Streeter (65 goals), junior Riley Kessler (57 goals) and senior Rachel Connolly (48 goals).

“We had a lot of offensive weapons,” Silversparre said, “so we had a lot of set plays with three [players] on one side. Berit was in each of those plays.”

The past few seasons have been a huge transitional period for Kaesler, starting as a role player and then blossoming into a go-to player to turn in one the most impressive offensive seasons in the area.

The results translated into a great year. La Cañada commanded a solid regular season and a 22-6 overall record — with its six losses coming mostly against teams in higher divisions. The squad was also perfect (8-0) in the Rio Hondo league.

Entering the playoffs, the Spartans were cruising, beating Righetti, 19-5, and Burbank, 6-2, in the first two rounds. Kaesler led the way, scoring a hat trick against Burbank.

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After the quarterfinal win against the Bulldogs, La Cañada had to face its toughest opponent: No. 1-seeded Arroyo Grande.

The Spartans played a solid contest, and even led going into the fourth quarter. But Arroyo Grande proved too strong, winning in overtime, 7-6.

Arroyo Grande won the CIF championship, beating Rio Mesa, 9-7. It was a difficult loss to take, but the Spartans had accomplished their goal of getting to the semifinals — and they did it as a team.

“It was all a team effort,” Kaesler said. “We definitely couldn’t have done it without all of us.”

Nonetheless, Kaesler believes it was their best contest of the year.

“Our last game was really good,” Kaesler said. “It was a heartbreaking game, but everything we worked on for that season came together in that game. I think it was a good end to our season, even though we lost. We really stepped up to play our opponents.”

The high school water polo road ended there for Kaesler, who also excels in the classroom, earning a 4.37 grade-point average this year. She has plans to attend the UC Berkeley in the fall and she hopes to earn a spot as a walk-on for the Bears.

“I just spoke to [Derek] Borisoff,” said Kaesler of contacting the founder of the La Cañada Water Polo clubs and father to former All-Area boys’ water polo players Devon and Spencer. “And he said he’d put me in contact with [UC Berkeley Coach Rich] Corso, so I’m hoping to get on as a walk-on.”

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But for now, Kaesler plans on enjoying the rest of her senior year, as well as going to Europe with some classmates in the summer.

After all that she did during a stellar water polo season, she certainly deserves the rest.



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