The Hilltop High School boys water polo team is coming off a highly successful 2011 campaign that saw the Lancers win their opening playoff game against West Hills and then advance to the San Diego Section quarterfinals, losing to eventual Division II champion Serra.
It was the best playoff showing by a Hilltop team in 30 years.
Hilltop finished 19-10 overall last season.
The Lancers’ games were action-packed throughout the season, particularly in the playoffs. Hilltop, which handily defeated West Hills by a score of 18-9, led Serra at halftime before falling to the Conquistadors, 14-11, in the final minutes.
Despite graduating eight players from last year’s squad, HHS coach John Salts feels the team’s solid development program has produced players, in his words, “ready to jump in and fill the gaps.”
Returning varsity players include transfer Nick Howard, whom Salts describes as one of the county’s “go-see players” this season, along with juggernaut utilityman Carlos Uribe and goalkeepers Conor Kober and Josue Macias.
Former Chula Vista Spartans standout Carlos Lizarraga will join the Lancers after the new CIF 30-day sit-out policy for transfers is served. He will be eligible to play Oct. 1.
“Howard is definitely one of the top players in the county,” Salts said. “We’ve already had two scrimmages, against West Hills and Valhalla, and all their coaches could talk about was if our transfer from Ventura was back.
“Nick can take the ball anywhere and score at will. He’s also a very unselfish player, a born leader.”
Salts said Lizarraga will bring speed to the team while Uribe will help steer the team’s fortunes on both offense and defense. Both goalies bring experience to the position, the HHS coach noted.
New additions from last year’s junior varsity team include Anthony Carrillo, Juan Saracho, Maruizio and Marko Martinez, Nick Norton, Julio Del Real and Andy Becerra, as well as freshman Emilio Maldonado.
Salts termed the new group that is moving up to the varsity level “seasoned.”
“The one really exciting thing we have is that they’ve been playing club ball the last two seasons for Coronado and have really jelled,” Salts said. “They’ve played a lot of matches together.”
Hilltop is running full JV and novice squads again this season, Salts said.
The Lancers will once again test some of the state’s top teams by competing in two out-of-area tournaments. While at the Irvine and Riverside Poly tournaments, Salts said the team will take campus tours and conduct meet-and-greets with the schools’ water polo coaches and teams.
Hilltop opens regular season play with two non-league games next week at the Parkway pool, both at 3 p.m. against Clairemont (Monday) and Chula Vista (Wednesday).
Lancers ready to take plunge into the pool in search of success Phillip Brents | Thu, Sep 06 2012 01:16 PM