The La Cañada High boys' water polo squad was offended when the CIF Southern Section released its preseason polls Aug. 22.
The Spartans enter the season ranked sixth in Division III after falling to Mira Costa, 5-4, in the quarterfinals last year.
"The kids were a little pissed off — I wasn't thrilled," said first-year La Cañada Coach Steve Neville about the ranking. "Polls are polls and people are going to rank them how they want and you just go to out and play your game."
The Spartans come into 2011 plenty motivated to prove to the pollsters, and anyone else, how good they are and that they're better than last year.
"I really like what I see," Neville said. "When I first came in, I could tell the kids were excited about this year and wanted to do better than they did last year. They were really upset about their quarterfinal loss. That has motivated them to come in and play well."
La Cañada is determined to improve on last season and make it to the semifinals this year. It will have to deal with the departures of its primary goal scorer from last year, Jack Depew. Neville isn't worried, though.
"I wouldn't say we have one outstanding guy, I think our whole team is really well-rounded," he said. "I think we have a bunch of kids who can do the job for us."
The Spartans return Chase Borisoff, a junior utility, Trevor Roszkos, a senior hole/guard, Wolfie Paulson, a senior goalie and Allen Morovati, a senior two-meter. Morovati will be joined by Bryce Hopkins, a junior, at the two-meter. A newcomer to the team, junior utility Symeon Stefan, has joined the Spartans after being home-schooled and has emerged as a dangerous goal scorer.
"Symeon, Chase and Trevor are going to be our top scorers, but we also have Allen Morovati and Bryce Hopkins, two really big kids and really good two-meter guys," Neville said.
La Cañada will look to control games the same way it did last year — with a suffocating defense and quick transition offense.
"We have a really fast team and I have had to try to stress to the kids how important counter-attacking is and the importance of scoring quick, easy goals so we don't have to set up," Neville said.
The first-year coach won't let his team not lock down on defense, either.
"That's one thing I am really stressing is defense," Neville said. "If we can't stop anyone, we can't beat anyone."
Flintridge Prep, in its second season under Coach Dan Hare, looks to improve on its winless record in the Prep League last season behind sophomore standouts Ethan Vandeventer and Alex Blaine.
Senior tri-captains Kellan Rohde, Patrick Hickey and Jack Purvis will all play specialized roles.
"We realize we play in a very tough league," said Hare, whose league includes 2010 CIF finalist Pasadena Poly and Chadwick, which won a CIF title in 2009. "We just want to continue to get better."