Pitman High alumnus Justin Jones is taking over the duties for the Pride boys water polo program and he has his eyes set on the future.
Last year was arguably the program’s best season ever and this year looks to be headed in the same direction.
“A lot of the guys from last season really worked hard in the off-season, all summer in Turlock United, a new program we have, combined with Turlock and Pitman, and that was successful,” said Jones, who graduated in 2008. “A lot of our guys played and they strive for a section title. It is a longshot, but this is an opportunity to show yourself and we have a group of boys that work hard.”
Pitman lost to only one team in league last season—Turlock High.
In their inaugural season competing in the Central California Athletic League, Pitman went 8-2, dropping just two games to Turlock.
Turlock went on to win the CCAL at 10-0, but Pitman gave them a run in the two league meetings.
It didn’t matter, as the Pride notched a playoff spot — the first time in over a decade. They earned a first round win the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs over Lincoln of Stockton, 5-2, advancing to face powerhouse Jesuit, where their season came to a close.
“Of course, we want to do well in league. Of course, the Turlock game is always a huge game, always,” said Jones. “I love to see the size growing at the games, in this area, but the biggest thing is to continue giving these boys the time like last year and the first time to build up the program. We want this to be a long-time program, not just a year or two, we want something that is going to last.”
Jones, who graduated over a decade ago, coached the JV squad from 2009-2011, and then left, before returning last year as an assistant to Mark Garrett.
He helped the Pride notch an 18-9 overall record for the year.
Of the seven returners from last year, Garrett Wilson is the overall leader and he is backed by a herd of standout players that include Sean Bernard, Andrew Fish, Peyton Selee, Bryce Kelly, Rylan LaForti and Joseph Carlsen-Sutherland.
The three juniors consist of Grady Lanser, Ryan Taylor and Matt Lee.
“Everyone returning has worked very hard this summer to prepare for the season so it's hard to not mention everyone,” Jones added.
The first game of the year for Pitman will be a scrimmage from Merced College at a time yet to be determined on Aug. 24.