The excitement heading into the newly created Central California Athletic League is evident in all sports, but varsity boys water polo is looking extremely competitive with Pitman and Turlock High leading the way when the new league kicks off.
The Bulldogs are coming off a year where they finished as runners-up in the Central California Conference—their last year competing in it.
“We were good. They finished second overall, made playoffs and played at St. Mary’s in the playoffs,” said Turlock coach Anne Cornell.
The Turlock boys graduated 11 seniors, however. Returners are Brandon Dhanowa at goalkeeper and Cole Marchy as a two-meter defender.
“We are looking to the underclassmen to step up to the challenge this year,” said Cornell.
The Pride finished with a 2-10 CCC record. Turlock on the other hand, placed second in the CCC at 10-2 while they went 20-7 overall.
The Bulldogs earned a berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs, but fell to St. Mary’s in the first round, 14-6.
“We have some strong juniors with great swimming skills who have some club experience as well,” said Cornell.
Turlock play makers should include Matt Reece, Billy Marchy, Taylor Ward and Jonah May.
Despite winning just two games, the Pride are looking good this year. They have experience at varsity to compete for the first ever CCAL title.
Pitman’s league record wasn’t a clear example of the team that saw some of the most promising progress as the year carried forward.
Thankfully for the Pride they return the bulk of last year’s team with the addition of incoming juniors.
“I want to teach some fundamentals, and what I found out is that the section will allow juniors to play JV and there are few sophomores and freshmen as well on our roster,” said first year head coach Mark Garrett.
Garrett, who is a Downey High graduate, has been coaching for decades and played at the collegiate level at Fresno State.
Most recently, Garrett was helping coach Paloma Valley High School in Riverside County last fall.
“Moved back into the area and I want to give back to the community. I always thought it would be fun to be back here and coach. The position was available,” said Garrett.
Garrett is expecting a solid performance from returners that include Nolan Lok, Andree Shields, Ethan Woodruff, Brayden Gutierrez and goalie Garrett Willson.
Pitman opens up league play on the road against Modesto High at 3 p.m. Sept. 19.
“We should be competitive; the kids seem hungry and I think we will be competitive right away,” Garrett added.
Turlock will open up CCAL play against Gregori on the road at 3 p.m. Sept. 19.