Coming off last season’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 Championship win and a number one national rank, the Wolverine boys’ water polo team is certainly not the underdog it was last year. Starting center defender and All-American Warren Snyder ’14 graduated, but the starting lineup has remained mostly intact. However, a few preseason tweaks have put the team in a good position to capture the title again.
Reigning CIF Division 1 Coach of the Year Brian Flacks ’06 started the preseason by adding a little more firepower to the coaching staff. Former head coach at Agoura and former teammate of Flacks Peter Schiavelli ’05 was hired at the end of May. In his first year with the Chargers, he guided them to the Division 2 Championship.
“[Schiavelli] brings a lot to the pool,” Ben Hallock ’16 said. “It’s almost like having two head coaches.”
Despite only graduating two players, there is a lot of young talent in the program, starting with goalkeeper Sam Krutonog ’18. Krutonog traveled to Serbia this summer to compete as the youngest member of the USA Men’s Cadet National Team. The most immediate question the Wolverines will have to answer is who will fill the hole in the starting lineup Snyder left behind.
“I don’t think anyone will replace Warren,” Flacks said. “He was an All-American. Now he’s a national team member and UCLA athlete, but we have a few younger athletes that will come and take at least a portion of his role.”
Flacks named Davis Wachtell ’16, Evan Rosenfeld ’17 and Alec Mendelsohn ’17 as players to potentially fill the spot and also said that Hallock would be helping out with the position.
The one thing the team hasn’t tweaked is its philosophy and drive.
“Our philosophy is, what we did to get to the top is what works,” Hallock said. “We’re not going to change what works once we get there. It’s a grind mentality. We go into every game knowing we need to outwork the other team in order to win.”
Flacks confirmed Hallock’s theory, saying that the mentality is the same as last year.
“We’re just getting back to the basic fundamentals and principles that made us successful last year,” Flacks said. “We’re fighting some of the complacency that comes with winning a championship. But I don’t think our philosophy has changed in terms of how we approach practice and how we train and play in games.”
The Wolverines clinched the league championship over Loyola last year, and a battle is predicted for the league title again. Loyola finished last season ranked fifth in Division 1,but also lost few to graduation. Last year, the Wolverines won the league title over Loyola for the first time since 2007.
The out-of-league rival is once again predicted to be Mater Dei. The squad won five CIF Championships in a row before being upset in the final by the Wolverines last season.
“It’s important to keep in mind the standard that they’ve set and that we need to work to be a rival with Mater Dei,” Flacks said. “It’s really important that we give them credit where its due.”
The Wolverines will get to face off against Mater Dei for the first time this season in a scrimmage Sept. 6. They will also face against Cathedral Catholic. The first official game is against Ventura High School Sept. 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the Copses Family Pool.