Boys’ water polo team looks to repeat as league champions

September 13, 2021 — by Jonathan Li
Senior Marcus Kuo rises for a 5 meter shot against Milpitas. The boys went on to win 19-6.

Head Coach: Michael Fleming

Last year’s record: 8-4

Recap: League playoffs were canceled due to state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions. With a short-staffed team, starters were forced to play without much rest time and did not perform as well as they had liked. 

Key Matchups: Wilcox, Lynbrook 

Team Captains: Seniors Marcus Kuo and Kendal Jarvis

Star athletes: Seniors Marcus Kuo, Kendal Jarvis, Jaime Fernandez De Ponte, Chris Wu, Kian Kwa and Andrew Hong

Key losses to graduation: Dylan Overby

League: El Camino League

Prognosis: 

Coach Jerome Chung had been the boys’ coach during the 2019-2020 season, playing an essential role in the boys’ success. In the month before the 2020-2021 season, he had passed away unexpectedly, leaving a major loss for players to deal with. A former coach, special education teacher Courtney Crase, stepped in as the temporary coach. After Crase declined to return for this season, the boys are playing under the guidance of new coach Michael Fleming, who formerly coached Fremont High School’s boys’ water polo team.

Riddled with COVID-19 scares and game cancellations during the 2020-2021 season, the team is looking to have a normal season this year. Last year, due to the pandemic, the typical fall season was postponed until spring.

Last year our season was really compressed,” senior Chris Wu said. “We had no preseason and many of us had just finished swim season.” 

Many athletes who participated in swimming, a Season 1 sport (non-contact or minimal-contact sports that the district allowed to resume first during the pandemic), were forced to participate in back-to-back seasons with only one week in between, meaning less time to recover and rest. 

At the same time, it also meant more conditioning and preparation. 

“I think having swimming before water polo was actually good for us,” senior co-captain and league MVP Marcus Kuo said. “People that were on the swim team were in very good shape and well conditioned for the season, which allowed us to get a headstart.”

This year, with a pre-season to prepare and develop chemistry, the team hopes to perform better, Wu said. During the 2019-2020 season, the boys won league championships and made CCS for the first time in five years, but were eliminated in the first round. They are looking to make another appearance in CCS this year while also repeating league championships.  

This year we have more time and we’ll be able to incorporate a lot more into what we’re able to do as a team,” Wu said. “For example, we have been bringing back many of the plays as well as general team synergy that we had with Jerome.”

So far, during the preseason, the boys beat Leigh 13-11 on Aug. 27 and Santa Teresa 15-4 on Aug. 31. Additionally, they kicked off the regular season with a 19-6 victory against Milpitas on Sept. 7 and a 17-6 victory against Fremont on September 9. 

Part of the success can be attributed to Fleming’s more hands-off approach to coaching the team. 

“I feel like Coach understands that we have a lot of plays that we have previously learned,” Wu said. “He sort of allows us to do our own thing and practice plays that we got from Jerome, instead of forcing too many new things onto us.”

Kuo emphasized their new coach’s focus on allowing the seniors to practice plays they’ve had in the past. 

With such a senior-heavy lineup, much of the responsibility will fall to the juniors and underclassmen once the seniors graduate.

“It’s mostly the seniors who are starting and getting lots of play time currently,” Kuo said. “Being able to develop the juniors and underclassmen to make sure that the program can continue to have success after we graduate is something we’re going to continue to work on during practice.”

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