Boys’ water polo struggles to find traction in first few weeks

October 3, 2023 — by Mitchell Chen
After a rough few years with coaching issues and absence of players, the boys hope to start the program again.

Each game for the boys’ water polo team so far has followed a familiar pattern: bad spacing and poor passes. The result: an 0-8 record as of Sept. 29. 

The Falcons have yet to win a game this season with a 19-2 loss to Monta Vista on Sept. 28, a 17-3 loss to Homestead on Sept. 26, a 13-6 loss against Milpitus on Sept. 21, and a 13-8 loss against Santa Clara on Sept. 5. 

After each loss, senior Yanis Herne has felt the team has been able to learn a lot about what strategies and setups work best. After playing against all the El Camino division opponents once, he hopes the team is able to learn from past mistakes when they play them again. 

“I think many of our games were definitely winnable; we are just making mistakes we shouldn’t have,” Herne said. 

Top scorers have been sophomore hole-set Nirvaan Shah and freshman flat Bryan Le. Defensively, Herne and Jarrett Singh have both been key players, with Herne averaging 6 steals per game and Singh able to cover faster players down the pool. 

After the graduation of three seniors from last year’s squad, the team has many underclassmen players who lack the experience and the conditioning compared to other teams; however, the team has 15 members — a good size for a team — allowing for many different rotations. With the team made up of many underclassmen, players struggle to get back on defense, leaving junior goalie Armon Vupula defenseless. 

The team has also been adjusting to a new coach. They are learning from new head coach Utku Kahran, a recent alumni of San Jose State where he played Division 1 water polo. 

One challenge has been adapting to new strategies from the new coach.

“This year we are switching to a defensive style called the Japanese press [man on man coverage] which relies a lot on the physicality of the players,” Vuppala said. “Many [opposing] coaches and players don’t know how to react to the defense.”

With four different coaches in the last four years, the boys have struggled to find stability in leadership of the program. 

“Adjusting to different coaches and adapting to new coaching styles has been difficult,” Herne said. “As soon as we get into a rhythm of things, we have to start over.”  

Kahran hopes to rebuild the water polo program starting this year with a large underclassmen team. 

Under his guidance, the team has improved its conditioning. The team conditioned for the season by swimming around 2,000-3,000 yards in the first few weeks. Additionally, the Falcons have been working on basic skills like driving in, releasing for the ball and 6-on-5 formations during practices. They are also looking to improve team chemistry. 

Sophomore Nirvaan Shah believes the team chemistry will continue to improve as the team continues to play together. He said building synergy between players is difficult with the amount of new players who have recently joined this year. 

“We have a lot of potential on the team and we just need to work on our communication and play with good intensity throughout the game,” Shah said.

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