Honors roll in for La Cañada High boys' water polo

A season that already included a Rio Hondo League championship and a run to the quarterfinals of the playoffs for the La Cañada High boys’ water polo team added a few more prizes.

The Spartans were honored by the Rio Hondo League recently as senior Peter Loakes was named the league’s most valuable player, while six teammates were selected to either the first and second teams or honorable mention list.

“This is an award I really wanted to win and I knew that it was going to come down to our games against South Pasadena and Pierce Deamer,” Loakes said. “I’m happy we won those games because that helped me win this award.”

The Spartans finished 21-10 this past season, which included an 8-0 run to a Rio Hondo League championship.

La Cañada advanced to quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs before falling, 11-6, on Nov. 16 to second-seeded host Corona Santiago, the eventual divisional runner-up.

“I’d love to sit back and tell you that I deserve a lot of the credit, but I can’t say that,” Spartans first-year Coach Christian Flores said. “I was handed a good team and these guys responded to what I and the coaches were saying and had a good year.”

Perhaps no athlete played a bigger role in La Cañada’s success than did Loakes, a 6-foot-2 utility player.

“My role definitely changed this year from last year and I had to be able to score more,” Loakes said. “I thought we overcame a lot of injuries and did well because of that.”

Loakes led the Spartans with team-highs in goals (97), steals (120) and assists (57).

“Peter was a great scorer and someone we really relied on,” Flores said. “He also played really tough defense and could guard anyone. He was a great team leader and we’ll miss him.”

The Spartans nabbed three first-team selections in seniors Jeffrey Lee and Justin Moh and junior Leo Neat.

Lee proved himself one of the area’s best goalies in finishing with 197 saves, 97 steals and 38 assists, while he held opposing teams to five or fewer goals on eight occasions.

“I wasn’t here last year, but I heard he was a little shaky last year and has really developed,” Flores said.

Lee was aided by Moh, a stout two-meter defender, who also tallied 60 goals, 75 assists and 47 steals.

Neat, a two-meter attacker, added 54 goals, 40 steals and 19 assists.

“Justin was a seasoned player and loved to play defense,” Flores said. “With Moh, he’s someone who should be playing at the next level. He has the talent to succeed.”

As for the second team, La Cañada junior Reed Buck earned his way onto the squad after finishing with 28 steals and 16 goals in 16 games.

Spartans senior Connor Shankwiler and junior Matthew Olson were chosen as honorable mentions.

“We’re losing some talent this year, no doubt,” Flores said. “But I’m excited with the juniors we have coming back next year and some of the new players that will be joining the program. We’re going to be strong again.”

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