Genetics is one thing. Being the daughter of a German gymnast, as Berit Kaesler is, may give an athlete a head start, but Kaesler might have been born to play water polo.
“I used to be a swimmer and I used to play soccer,” the La Cañada High senior said, “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, all the strength required.
“And then there’s the thinking involved and you have to be able to see what’s going on around the pool. The game is always changing and you have to be thinking.”
Now that she’s in swimming, she still can’t get her mind off of water polo.
“I sometimes egg beat in the pool between races,” Kaesler said.
Kaesler was dominant in the 2009 girls’ water polo season for La Cañada High, scoring 69 goals with 46 steals and 20 assists.
And yet when learning she was voted the 2009 All-Area Girls’ Water Polo Player of the Year by the sportswriters and editors of the La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader, she responded, “Really?”
“She’s very talented,” Spartans Coach Steve Silversparre said, “but she’s very humble.”
That’s what this season was about for Kaesler, Silversparre added: getting her to realize just how good she is.
And how. Kaesler was the leading scorer on one of the more impressive offensive forces in CIF Southern Section Division IV. The La Cañada team also featured senior Shannon Streeter, who finished with 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 of [my 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 the role player and then blossoming into a utility player with one the most impressive offensive season in the area.
The results translated into a great season. La Cañada commanded a solid regular season: 23-6, their six losses coming mostly from teams in higher divisions, and a perfect 8-0 in Rio Hondo play.
Entering the playoffs, the Spartans were cruising, beating Righetti 19-5 and Burbank 6-2. Kaesler led the way; she scored a hat trick against Burbank.
After the quarterfinals win against Burbank, La Cañada had to face its toughest opponent yet, No. 1 seed Arroyo Grande.
The Spartans played a great game, and even led going into the fourth quarter, but Arroyo proved too strong and won it in overtime, 7-6.
Arroyo won the CIF championship, beating Rio Mesa, 9-7, in the finals, and the Spartans were the only team to come close to beating them.
It was a difficult loss to take, especially after watching Arroyo dismantle Rio Mesa, but they 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.”
Although the loss still stings—Coach Silversparre admitted he has a tape of the game and still refuses to watch it—Kaesler believes it was their best game 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. Just as an individual player. I think it was a good end to our season. We really stepped up to play our opponents.”
The high school road ends here for Kaesler, who put up a weighted 4.37 GPA this year, but she has plans to attend UC-Berkeley in the fall. And hey, maybe there’s a spot for her on their water polo team.
“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.”
But right now, Kaesler plans on enjoying the rest of her senior year in high school and going to Europe with some classmates in the summer.
After all that she did during a stellar water polo season, she deserves the rest.