A season that doesn't end with a Rio Hondo League title will be considered a failure for La Cañada High boys' water polo team.
The Spartans six-year streak as Rio Hondo League champions was snapped last year. They're looking to recapture the top spot in league this year after finishing 18-12 and second in league with a young team in 2009.
"We have high expectations for this year," Coach German Lopez said. "Primarily, we want to take back the Rio Hondo League title."
Lopez already likes what his team is showing him this year.
"I'm comfortable with these kids," Lopez said. "They're a little bit more ambitious and they want it a lot more."
Seniors Justin Lee and Jack Depew stand to lead the Spartans in their final year.
"We're looking for them to do big things this year," Lopez said. "Hopefully they step up and be the players I think they have the potential to be."
La Cañada High doesn't have the luxury of an all-star player this year, but that's fine with Lopez because it allows him to run a balanced offensive attack, working the ball all over the pool.
"We have a lot of guys who are just role players; they do the little things," Lopez said.
Goaltending has gone from being a worry to a strength for the Spartans during the summer, as Reed Shankwiler, a senior, and Wolfie Paulson, a junior, will be both guarding the net this season.
"Both of them do a solid job for us," Lopez said. "They grew into their spots over the summer. I was kind of concerned about it at the beginning of the summer but they have both played well for us."
What's most exciting for the Spartans this year is their depth. Lopez could only go one or two deep into his bench last year because there was such a drop-off in talent. This year, however, he has four or five substitutes he can rely on without losing much.
Juniors Bo Mattix, Chase Borisoff and Trevor Roszkos all figure to make a splash in the pool. Mattix was a top-five scorer last year and Borisoff has emerged as a facilitator, one of the team leaders in assists.
"These kids are just hungrier than last year," Lopez said. "I'm already having a lot more fun than I did last year. These kids are competitive and they fight — that's what you want."
Over at Flintridge Prep, longtime teacher Dan Hare becomes the Rebels' fifth coach in as many years, but with better numbers and some new players with a club polo background on board, he hopes to see an uptick this year.
"We've got a lot of young kids in the program, so we're pretty optimistic about how things will shake out," Hare said. "We've got a young team, but we're real excited with the turnout and the outlook."
Last season the team 20-9 and 8-0 in league to capture a Rio Hondo League championship. The Rebels lost to Rio Mesa, 10-6, in CIF Southern Section Division VI semifinals.
Key players for Flintridge Prep include: senior goalkeeper Rane Colvin, senior hole/set Alan Dearman, senior drivers Andrew De Jong ,Robbie Ruzicka and Josh Chi and junior dricer/gole/guard Louis Wojciechowski.