New players, same goal

Jake Liker

The boys’ water polo team enters a new season having won 37 consecutive games and back-to-back CIF Southern Section Division I Championships. Despite past accomplishments, this season’s squad refuses to rest on its proverbial laurels, Head of Aquatics Brian Flacks said.

“The thing that I love about the team this year is that I never have to question this team’s effort,” Flacks said. “A lot of people talk about complacency and having problems since we’ve won the last two years; we haven’t had that problem at all. In terms of the general grind and the day-to-day basis, this team has an unbelievable work ethic and motivation, and now it’s about them going out to earn it and not expecting to be given something just because we work hard on a daily basis.”

There is another potential problem, however, as the departure of an especially strong Class of 2015 has left many holes to be filled.

“When you graduate eight seniors, and of those eight there are four starters and five going to Division I universities to play water polo, obviously we can’t replace all of those guys,” Flacks said.

Anthony Ridgley ’15, Johnny Hooper ’15 and Ben Hallock ’16 were all named to the 2015 All-American First Team by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. Ridgley will continue his water polo career at the collegiate level at Harvard, and Hooper will do the same at University of California, Berkeley. Hallock, however, still has one more year as a Wolverine before continuing on to Stanford.

“There is for sure a bigger sense of urgency now that there is not a ‘next year’,” Hallock said. “But as for winning three titles in a row, nothing motivates me more than thinking about losing the championship game.”

Hallock has also represented his country in addition to his school lately, playing with the U.S. Senior National Team in games against Italy and Australia.

The reigning 2014 Division I Co-Player of the Year also scored four goals for Team USA in the 2015 FINA International Tournament, where the Americans took third place.

“My experience with the national team was extremely beneficial in terms of becoming a better leader and an overall better water polo player,” Hallock said.

Hallock was competing against the best players every day, he said.

“Although it was an extremely challenging task, I grew monumentally as a player,” Hallock said.

After losing so many seniors, the change of personnel will be noticeable. Although the team’s roster may look different this year, the team’s goal remains the same.

“We don’t really believe in rebuilding years,” Flacks said. “This offseason we worked to make sure we molded the guys in our program to fit roles we needed to replace. Our goal, our vision every year is to put ourselves in a position to win a CIF Division I championship, so the expectation is to win another one.”

Flacks does not buy into the idea that the program’s recent success will lead to complacency.

“We try to put more pressure on ourselves than any external kind of forces could ever put on us, whether it be media or other people that we talk to, so I don’t think that the pressure has changed at all,” Flacks said.

Hallock echoed this sentiment.

“I believe that the only added pressure this year is how high we set our expectations,” Hallock said. “Having said that, our focus is only on this year’s team and has nothing to do with what teams have done in the past. But we [nevertheless] expect from ourselves to go undefeated and win another Division I championship.”