Tue, Oct 08 2013 11:39 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Austin Legg is back where he started. Only this time he is on the other side of the whistle.
Legg is coaching alongside fellow Eastlake High School alumnus James Hiney this season after taking the reins of the Titans boys water polo program from former head coach Chris Barrick.
It’s been a gradual transition phase for Legg and Hiney, who have served as assistant coaches under Barrick for the past few seasons. Legg is now the program's head coach; Hiney is his assistant.
“Coming back and coaching my alma mater has been a blessing,” said Legg, who subsequently played water polo at Southwestern College and is now an instructional assistant at Eastlake High School. “There have definitely been challenges and learning experiences that will only help me improve as a coach.”
Legg and Hiney have inherited some tradition. The Titans are five-time Mesa League champions and appear to be the proverbial “team to beat” once again this season despite undergoing what some might term a “rebuilding phase.”
“The team that we have this year is young, but I have never seen a group of kids so eager to work hard and learn as much as they can,” Legg explained. “We definitely have a special group of boys this year and for the years to come.”
Captains Johnny Velazquez (field player) and Ricky Gonzalez (goalie) lead this year’s team. Velazquez had scored 31 goals in the team’s opening 13 games this season while Gonzalez had recorded a 121 blocks.
Other notable returners include Kyle Schauer (driver), Kyle De Alva (2-meter defender) and Kyle Kowalski (driver).
Impact newcomers include Nate Neihaus (driver) and Zack Randall (driver). “These two sophomores have been learning at a very fast pace and have become important players in our success,” Legg noted.
The Titans faced off the season against some of the best competition in Southern California. Eastlake finished 18th out of 32 teams in the Poway Invitational and 20th out of 32 teams in the America’s Finest City tournament.
At 6-7, the Titans have recorded what Legg terms “solid wins” against both Poway and Helix.
Eastlake’s first big test in Mesa League play will come in Wednesday’s league opener against Hilltop at the Southwestern College pool (5:30 p.m. start). The Lancers challenged the Titans for last year’s league title and it appears the same scenario could play out again this season.
Hilltop improved to 8-7 after topping El Capitan, 14-8, in Monday’s opening game in the East County Invitational.
The Lancers finished 3-2 at the 25-team Riverside tournament and 0-4 at the Irvine tournament.
“Moving forward, our goal is to play hard for all four quarters and execute our game plan,” Legg said. “Heading into league, we plan to take it one game at a time and bring forward our best water polo of the season. As a team, we feel confident that we will retain our league title.”
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