It is tough to say if there is a deeper or more talented roster in the Central California Athletic League when it comes to varsity boys water polo as the Turlock High Bulldogs, who seem to be the team that everyone is chasing heading into year two in what was a newly created league last fall.
With the help of seniors Matt Reis and Taylor Ward, the team’s maturity level and understanding of what it takes to be on top could play a significant role in how the Bulldogs fare this upcoming season.
“We do have three seniors coming back, and I am excited because we did have a strong season last year,” Turlock head coach Colin Wenstrand. “I think we did set a tone and standard in terms of program expectations and culture, great outcome in that regard, but we don’t want to hang on for too long. We want to look forward and constantly how we can get better each day.”
How can a team that was perfect in league last year, get better?
Simple, they need to continue to grow and not be satisfied with the success in the past.
At least that is part of what Wenstrand is preaching.
Last year, the Bulldogs were a force to be reckoned with, especially in league.
They went 18-8 overall and amassed a perfect 10-0 CCAL record, where they notched the inaugural title.
They also earned a playoff spot and beat Armijo in the first round of the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section tournament before falling to Davis in the second round.
“Our biggest deficit is we lost the CCAL MVP of last year in Brandon Dhanowa (MJC), we are trying to figure out how we are going to fill that vacancy. We have looked at different options, but we will leave it open until the first game of the season more than likely,” said Wenstrand.
Thankfully, Wenstrand returns junior Andrew Folly, who played almost every minute as a sophomore.
Out of the 19 players on the playoff roster, 11 are back, which also includes standout swimmer Michael Tobin and junior Jackson Thomas.
“I think some of the guys moving up from JV are excellent, real excited about Jackson Thomas, strongest player on JV last year on offense and defense and he played all summer long, so we have some speed, size and strength,” said Wenstrand. “We are young, but it is not something where we are rebuilding or inexperienced, nothing like that, we are young, which means we have a couple of good years ahead of us.”
Another thing that helped in the offseason, was the creation of Turlock United Water Polo Club, which consisted mainly of Pitman and Turlock high student-athletes.
The club was made up of a U12, U14, U16 and U18 teams.
“I am excited that the boys started to play in the club we started, along with the Pitman boys over summer club season, which was high level. Not sure how many games the different age groups played individually, but altogether there were 85 games played,” said Wenstrand.
Look for Turlock and Pitman to be among the team competitors in the CCAL this fall.
“Our goals, something we are going to hammer out, I leave it up for the seniors, but when it really comes to goals, just becoming better, in a thorough way, whatever else happens, happens,” Wenstrand added.
The first game for Turlock will be a non-league home contest against former league foe Buhach Colony at 3 p.m. Sept. 3.