German Lopez could tell there was something different with La Cañada High Schools boys' water polo team this year.
Lopez's players were desperate to win, something he couldn't say last season.
The Spartans' drive to win took them to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals, where they fell to Mira Costa, 5-4, on Nov. 12.
Although, they didn't reach their goal of a CIF Southern Section championship, they did reestablish their dominance in Rio Hondo League.
La Cañada won the Rio Hondo League championship after failing to win the crown for the first time in six years in 2009.
Jack Depew emerged as a dominating force with his play this year, and was a big reason for the rebirth of the team as well. Depew, a senior, led the team in goals (68) and was second in assists (17). For his efforts, he was honored as the Rio Hondo League Player of the Year.
"[Depew] was clearly, by far, the best offensive player in the league," Lopez said. "He's a double threat, he can shoot from the perimeter and post up. He's crafty and a good facilitator with the ball. He just has all the intangibles."
Of course, Depew didn't do it all on his own. La Cañada's success was derived from its team defense. Trevor Roszkos, a junior, led the Spartans in field blocks (26) and was named to the Rio Hondo League first-team for his defensive prowess.
"[Roszkos] shut people down throughout league, and was probably one of the better defenders in league," Lopez said.
Junior Bo Mattix and sophomore Chase Borisoff also earned first-team all-league accolades. Mattix was a sparkplug for the Spartans, always managing to come up with big goals late in games. He finished the season with 54 goals, second best for the Spartans, and a team-high 27 steals. Borisoff, on the other hand, did a bit of everything. He led the team in assists (61) and had the second-most steals (22).
"[Borisoff] was our primary ball-handler and basically ran the offense for us," Lopez said. "He's the equivalent of a point guard in basketball."
Seniors Justin Lee, Reed Shankwiler and junior Allen Morovati were all designated for second-team honors.
"[Morovati] was just dominant in set, which opened up our perimeter game," Lopez said. "He drew a lot of attention and opened up things for a lot of other people."
Shankwiler split time at goalkeeper before truly putting his stamp on the position toward the end of the season. He racking up 143 blocks and 15 steals.
Robert Loakes, a senior and Wolfie Paulson, a junior, were both honorable-mention all-league selections Paulson gave La Cañada the luxury of two strong goalies, accumulating 118 blocks while splitting time with Shankwiler.
Although Lopez is losing a lot of talent this year, he still has high hopes for 2011. La Cañada will be returning five All-Rio Hondo League players and will try and make another run at a CIF Southern Section championship.
"I have high expectations with next year's team because I will have had them since they were eighth-graders," Lopez said. "Most of them are third-year varsity players. I expect to win league and I'm hoping to actually go a lot deeper in the playoffs."