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La Jolla’s boys high school water polo players dive into a new season

The Bishop's School boys varsity water polo team
(Courtesy of The Bishop’s School)

After a couple of pandemic-disrupted seasons, La Jolla’s boys high school water polo players are taking to the pool again. And according to their coaches, all three schools have a shot at a CIF division title.

Here’s a look at the new season:

The Bishop’s School

Although the Bishop’s Knights lost three seniors to graduation after last season, this year’s squad is still senior-heavy, with seven. On top of that, four starters — seniors Oliver Price and Chase Landa and juniors Justin Stone and Lukas Peabody — are returning.

Coach Doug Peabody said the starters are “well-balanced between offense and defense” and will help the team’s goalies, which Peabody called “the top goalies for their grades in the country, in my opinion.”

“We’re going to be strong in that our goalies are going to run defense and they have a great understanding of our defensive teams,” he said. “Our offense is going to be attacker-based. We have a good center in Alex Zarcu. We’re going to expect a lot from our attackers this year. It’s going to be a fun season to see how we progress.”

Peabody said “no game is going to be easy,” but he expects the Knights to end up on top in the Western League.

The boys team played two seasons in 2021. In June, the Knights concluded a pandemic-altered season by defeating Cathedral Catholic of Carmel Valley for the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title, 16-14. Five months later, the two schools squared off again for the title and this time it went to the Dons, 11-8.

La Jolla High School

Bishop’s rival La Jolla High School comes in “senior-light and junior-heavy,” with six seniors and 11 juniors, according to coach Tom Atwell. Nevertheless, “we have so much depth this year; there are no younger kids, they are experienced athletes,” he said. “We can rotate anyone into the game without downgrading. We have some superstars.”

Two of those stars are seniors Kiefer Black and Finn Bugelli.

“They bring a lot of experience and have played since they were little and are incredibly gifted in speed and size and high water polo IQ,” Atwell said.

La Jolla High water polo player Kiefer Black
Senior Kiefer Black has a central role on La Jolla High School’s boys water polo team.
(Courtesy of Nicola Bugelli)

Top to bottom, he said, “this team is one of our more talented groups.” He noted that when the Vikings played JSerra Catholic High School of San Juan Capistrano — one of the top water polo teams in the region — they narrowly lost, 14-13, on Aug. 30.

“They [the Vikings] like each other as a group, so it’s really cohesive,” Atwell said. “The leadership we have with the seniors creates a culture where the kids want to play hard for each other. It is a symbiotic group; they play well together. I think if we were goal setting, [winning] CIF should be one of them.”

During the November CIF playoffs, the Vikings made it to the semifinals but were defeated by Cathedral Catholic.

La Jolla Country Day School

For new LJCDS coach Billy Barham, this season means getting back to basics. He said he’s still adding players to his relatively young team.

“We have three seniors and the rest are underclassmen and freshmen, which bodes well for the future of the program, but we’re inexperienced right now,” Barham said.

The Torreys were 3-16 last season and moved this year from Division II to Division III.

But by being in Division III, a CIF title could be in their sights, Barham said.

“We are in a winnable competitive division,” he said. “Of the 24 teams, 12 are going to make the playoffs.

“Beyond that, I personally am looking forward to getting the program back on track, and that is going to mean recruitment, recruitment, recruitment.”

It’s also going to mean working on the “fundamentals and basics” of the sport, he said. “We need to really break things down as far as strategy goes. It needs to be a complete program, so we’re back to basics and teaching the game.”

Upcoming schedules

La Jolla High School

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

Sept. 22: Home vs. Grossmont, 4 p.m.

Sept. 27: Home vs. Scripps Ranch, 4 p.m.

Sept. 30: Away vs. Bishop’s, 5 p.m.

Oct. 12: Home vs. Bishop’s, 3 p.m.

Oct. 14: Home vs. Carlsbad, 4 p.m.

Oct. 18: Home vs. Cathedral Catholic, time TBA

Oct. 27: Away vs. Cathedral Catholic, time TBA

The Bishop’s School

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

Sept. 20: Home vs. Orange Lutheran, 5 p.m.

Sept. 24: Home vs. Huntington Beach, 10 a.m.

Sept. 28: Home vs. Vista, 5 p.m.

Sept. 30: Home vs. La Jolla, 5 p.m.

Oct. 4: Home vs. Cathedral Catholic, 5 p.m.

Oct. 12: Away vs. La Jolla, 3 p.m.

Oct. 19: Away vs. Coronado, 3 p.m.

Oct. 26: Away vs. Cathedral Catholic, 3 p.m.

Oct. 28: Home vs. Coronado, 5 p.m.

La Jolla Country Day School

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

Sept. 8: Home vs Army-Navy, 4 p.m.

Sept. 14: Home vs. Santa Fe Christian, 4 p.m.

Sept. 26: Away vs. University City, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 28: Away vs. Canyon Hills, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 30: Away vs. Bonita Vista, 4 p.m.

Oct. 5: Away vs. Mira Mesa, 4 p.m.

Oct. 6: Home vs. Army-Navy, 4 p.m.

Oct. 14: Away vs. South, 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 15: Away vs. Santa Fe Christian, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 19: Home vs. Canyon Hills, 4 p.m.

Oct. 26: Home vs. Mira Mesa, 4 p.m.

Oct. 27: Away vs. Pacific Ridge, 6:45 p.m. ◆