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Eastlake polo men bracing for Titan-ic season, CIF title bid Phillip Brents | Fri, Aug 29 2014 12:46 PM

The Eastlake High school boys water polo team had high expectations for the 2013 season. The Titans pushed aside a pair of strong challenges from Mater Dei Catholic High School to capture their sixth consecutive Mesa League championship.

But the San Diego Section playoffs proved to be quite a different ending: a 9-8 loss to Patrick Henry in the opening round of the Division I playoffs.

Characteristically slow starters, Eastlake rallied from a 5-0 deficit to thrill their fans with an electrifying second-half showing. But the late goal barrage proved too little, too late.

The Titans ended the season 16-11 overall.

Eastlake coach Austin Legg has high expectations for his team this season, and the ending could be quite different than the last one.

A CIF championship banner may hang in the balance.

“We have a very positive outlook for our 2014 season,” said Legg, an EHS alumnus. “After winning our league last year, it is our expectation to do so again. After only losing three seniors, we feel confident in our ability as a team to be ranked among the top competitors in Division II for an opportunity to win a CIF championship.”

The section has realigned its playoff format, beginning this season, to a competition-based tier system rather than, as in the past, being based on student enrollment.

The Titans drop from Division I to Division II and should find their new surroundings much more user friendly than playing large-enrollment schools, most of them with on-campus pools and deep development programs.

It’s a new beginning for what has been the Metro Conference’s top program over the last decade. Legg and his team plan to seize the opportunity.

Top returners include first team all-league junior Nate Niehaus, second team all-league senior Kyle Schauer and second team all-league senior Kyle De Alva.

Braced by those three players, Legg said “the team is looking strong.”

“We are expecting big things from our new goalie Aaron Aitchison, who has had an incredible offseason to earn himself the starting varsity goalie position,” Legg added.

Junior Zack Randall has also emerged as one of the team’s key players in the pool, according to the EHS coach. Legg said Randall “has the ability to take control of any game.”

Legg noted that senior Kyle Kowalski has made a position change to hole-set where he will be able to utilize his strength and size more effectively.

Junior Will Johnston has earned a starting spot because of his work ethic and strong outside shooting abilities, according to Legg, while senior Salvador Gomez has grown over the off-season both mentally and physically and can be counted on in any position in the water.

Legg said the team’s disappointing loss in last year’s CIF playoffs has only served to motivate this year’s team.
“We still have the bad feeling of losing last year’s CIF game to Patrick Henry, which has turned into nothing but motivation for this heavy upperclassmen team,” the Titan coach explained. “We are excited for this 2014 season and expect to make the best of it.”

Draz Classic
Eastlake opened its season last Saturday with an appearance in the ninth annual Draz Classic at Granite Hills High School. The rematch against Patrick Henry went to the Titans by an 11-8 score, though the defending Mesa League champions found themselves down early 4-1 to the Patriots.

Eastlake, however, did all the scoring in the second quarter as Niehaus and Johnston each scored twice and Schauer scored once for a 5-0 Titan scoring advantage.

Patrick Henry closed to within one goal, 7-6, in the second half before Eastlake reeled off three unanswered goals — one each by Jorge Fernandez, Johnston and Gomez — to go up 10-6 and regain firm control of the game’s momentum.

Johnston led the Titans with four goals while Schauer, Fernandez and Niehaus each scored two goals. Zach Stillwater led the Patriots with six goals.

King neptune
Mar Vista, last year’s South Bay League champion, moves to the Mesa League this season, which should only serve to upgrade the competitiveness in the Metro’s top playing circuit.

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