La Jolla’s boys water polo teams look forward to tournaments and new opponents this season

Senior Gavin Olson leads fellow La Jolla High School water polo players to the finish of a beach run-swim-run training event.
Senior Gavin Olson leads fellow La Jolla High School water polo players to the finish of a beach run-swim-run training session.
(Nicola Bugelli)

After playing a shortened schedule last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, La Jolla’s boys high school water polo teams are looking forward to tournaments and taking on new opponents this season.

With competition opening last month, The Bishop’s School split its first four games, beating Grossmont and Santana and losing to Mater Dei of Santa Ana in overtime and Newport Harbor.

“Mater Dei is in the top four in the country, so playing them into overtime was big for us,” said Bishop’s coach Doug Peabody. “We’ll be playing more games against Newport Beach and Huntington Beach teams, which are some of the top teams.”

Last season, the Knights primarily played teams in the San Diego area as the pandemic limited travel opportunities.

“We didn’t get to go to any tournaments ... so the team is really looking forward to that,” Peabody said. “They want to travel and compete against the top teams in the country, not just San Diego. The excitement they have to compete against these new teams is driving them.”

Peabody said those opponents will be met with a focus on defense. “We play head-to-head games in Orange County and no one wants to be blown out of the water, so we are hanging our hat on defense,” he said. “These guys are so together from top to bottom. We have a strong freshman group and a lot of juniors that waited last year to get their turn.”

Similarly, the La Jolla High School Vikings are looking forward to hitting the road. In coming weeks, they will travel to Menlo Park in the Bay Area for a tournament at which they will play against Northern California teams.

“There is a general excitement about that trip and getting to play against some new teams,” said La Jolla High coach Tom Atwell.

When the Vikings return, they will play a tournament in San Diego that brings teams from out of the area. After that, they will play teams in Orange County.

Atwell said the team has a great combination of senior leadership and talented younger athletes.

“The young guns are still finding their way, but they are so talented that if pointed in the right direction, will really help us. So having that leadership from those that have been there keeps that group focus and directed,” he said.

La Jolla High School water polo players run beside the ocean as they train for the new season.
(Nicola Bugelli)

This season’s squad has the added advantage of size and speed, Atwell said. “We have a really fast team; that’s our biggest attribute. I think we are one of the faster teams in San Diego County. We are also a really tall team. I’m 5-8 and am the shortest guy on the team. In water polo, length and having a big wingspan gets them to the ball faster.”

At La Jolla Country Day School, the Torreys’ schedule also is stacked with tournaments. But new coach Max Mendez said the team is just looking forward to being back in the water for a full season.

“We have a lot of returning players that have fantastic enthusiasm for the sport,” he said. “They are driven and there is camaraderie and teamwork that is fantastic to see. It’s going to be an exciting season to watch.”

“Fundamentally, the team is great,” Mendez said. “So we are emphasizing conditioning and swimming. The focus is swim, swim, swim. That won’t make up for the game-play aspect but will give them an edge in the water. These guys are really well-conditioned and looking fast.”

He said many of the players committed time in the offseason to swimming and “working on the skills they need to improve.”

“They just want to perform to the best of their abilities. So long as we are humble in victory and honorable in defeat, they look at that as a success in the water,” Mendez said.

Below are the local schedules that were available as of early this week. Tournaments were not listed on the La Jolla High School schedule.

La Jolla High School

(Home games at Coggan Family Aquatic Complex, 800 Nautilus St.)

  • Sept. 14: Away vs. JSerra Catholic, 4 p.m.
  • Sept. 17: Home vs. Valhalla, 4 p.m.
  • Sept. 21: Home vs. Grossmont, 4 p.m.
  • Sept. 23: Home vs. Damien, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 5: Home vs. Scripps Ranch, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 7: Home vs. Mar Vista, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 12: Away vs. Coronado, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 14: Home vs. Cathedral Catholic, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 19: Home vs. Bishop’s, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 21: Home vs. Coronado, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 26: Away vs. Cathedral Catholic, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 27: Home vs. Carlsbad, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 28: Away vs. Bishop’s, 5 p.m.
  • Oct. 29: Home vs. Vista, 4 p.m.

The Bishop’s School

(Home games at Bishop’s pool, 7607 La Jolla Blvd.)

  • Sept. 7: Home vs. JSerra Catholic, 5 p.m.
  • Sept. 16-18: Tournament at Newport Aquatic Center, Newport Beach
  • Sept. 22: Home vs. Orange Lutheran, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 1: Home vs. Vista, 6 p.m.
  • Oct. 5: Away vs. Cathedral Catholic, 3 p.m.
  • Oct. 7-9: Tournament at Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles
  • Oct. 12: Home vs. Cathedral Catholic, 5 p.m.
  • Oct. 14: Away vs. Coronado, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 19: Away vs. La Jolla, 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 21: Away vs. Cathedral Catholic, TBD
  • Oct. 26: Home vs. Coronado, TBD
  • Oct. 28: Home vs. La Jolla, 5 p.m.

La Jolla Country Day School

(Home games at Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive)

  • Sept. 23-25: Tournament in Diamond Bar
  • Sept. 30: Home vs. University City, TBD
  • Oct. 4, 8, 9: East County Invitational tournament
  • Oct. 12: Away vs. University City, 6 p.m.
  • Oct. 14: Home vs. Scripps Ranch, TBD
  • Oct. 19: Home vs. Santa Fe Christian, TBD
  • Oct. 21-23: San Diego Varsity Open tournament
  • Oct. 26: Away vs. Scripps Ranch, TBD
  • Oct. 30: Away vs. Santa Fe Christian, 4 p.m. ◆