Looking to right the ship

Most people jump in the pool and let their worries disappear. However, the pressure is on when the La Cañada boys' water polo team dives in.

The 2009-10 season yielded unsatisfactory results for the Spartans, and Coach German Lopez is set out to right the ship. That turnaround began this summer.

"Last year was a down year, probably one of the worst in the past 12 or 14 years," Lopez said. "We finished second in league with an overall record of 18-12, or something."

Although they posted a winning record, it wasn't like the success they've had in past seasons. Along with winning CIF Southern Section championships five times — two in the last five years — The Spartans have captured the Rio Hondo League title 16 times.

Last season snapped the Spartans' six-year streak as league champs, a string that went from 2003-2008.

The Spartans were inexperienced last year, with most of their talent coming in the form of freshmen and sophomores. They will still compete on a young squad this year, returning just four starters, including two seniors.

Five days a week the Spartans are out practicing, and every weekend they compete in tournaments. During the July 23-25 weekend, some players competed in 12 games in the three-day span during the Hale Summer Championship.

So far this summer, Lopez has liked what he's seen. The Spartans placed high in a few big tournaments already, including a top-10 finish in the Hale championships and a second-place showing in the Commerce International Open, an event that featured 32 teams.

"Summer is all about repetition and getting as much game time in as possible," Lopez said.

This summer, two USC players have come on as assistant coaches for the Spartans, which has brought a new dimension to their workouts.

Depth is going to serve the water-polo team well this year, and La Cañada will likely rely on that depth if it hopes to contend for a Rio Hondo League next season.

"We have a lot of depth this year so we can go deep into the bench," Lopez said. "We don't have an all-star, which is better because it gets everyone involved and we play a team game. We can run our offense on the left or right side."

Lopez will be able to go five or six players deep into his bench, knowing he isn't losing much with the players in the pool. Last year, he could only dip into his bench once or twice before worrying about a huge drop-off in talent.

The main focus for the summer so far has seen the Spartans working on their power play and their transition game. Those were two main areas which the team was lacking last year, Lopez said.

"You're always working on something," Lopez said. "No one has a perfect team."

Even though Lopez realizes this year may pose them a challenge, there is only one thing on his mind.

"Obviously, you want to try and win every single game," Lopez said. "I don't do this for fun; I do this to win."

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World