As they beat Santa Fe Christian and Cathedral Catholic on Friday and Saturday, the La Jolla High boys’ water polo team put an exclamation point at the end of a regular season that was anything but regular.
The Vikings were very much in control in their 13-4 victory over Santa Fe Christian. Then, against Cathedral, they exacted revenge by holding on for an 8 to 6 win; Cathedral had beaten La Jolla in their two previous meetings this season.
In both games, the La Jolla boys displayed unity and maturity, something they also showed back in September when they expressed support for coach Tom Atwell’s wife and her fight against breast cancer.
This is Atwell’s eighth season coaching water polo at La Jolla High, and his wife Utahna has always been a strong supporter of the team as well. In September, Utahna shaved her head after her hair began falling out during chemotherapy. One day soon after, every boy on the water polo team showed up to a game with bald heads too.
“I was in shock,” Utahna said. “I cried. It just touched my heart.”
Tyler Woods, one of the team captains, said the boys had been looking for a way to support Utahna.
“Then my mom came up with the idea that the best way is to kind of walk around in her shoes for a bit and show her we know at least a little how she feels when she goes out in public.”
“It just shows you what a group of boys we have here,” coach Atwell said. “It says a lot about them.”
Atwell is pleased with how things have gone in the water also. The two final wins put the Vikings at 19-11 for the season.
And in the game against Santa Fe Christian, no less than six players scored. “It was good to get so many players in the rotation,” said Atwell.
CIF playoffs started Wednesday (after press time) at Coggan Aquatic Complex, and the Vikings enter ranked fourth. Though they’ve been in the top four for the last seven seasons with coach Atwell, this year is different.
“In the past, everyone was chasing Bishop’s and Coronado,” he said. “But this year all the teams in the top four are very close.”
Utahna Atwell’s prognosis is for complete recovery, and the winning ways of the boys’ water polo team seemed likely to continue when they hit the water at Coggan on Wednesday.