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Mustang South Coast Water Polo Club provides summer learning experience, championship feeling Phillip Brents | Fri, Aug 08 2014 04:04 PM

High school and youth water polo continue to grow in both popularity and experience level in South County. That has been reflected in both tournament showings at the club team level and participation in the San Diego Section playoffs.
The quest for improvement appears to be inherent in the sport, and local programs do not appear to be lagging behind.

The Mustang South Coast Water Polo Club was active this summer fielding club teams at the 14U boys level as well as two boys teams at the 16U level, a 16U girls team and 18U boys team.

The older age-group teams competed in the annual San Diego East County Summer League and also participated in monthly tournaments.

All the teams proved to be highly successful in the pool.

The Boys 16U team won its division with an undefeated 5-0 record while both the Girls 16U and Boys 18U teams finished in third place.

Participants from Otay Ranch, Hilltop, Olympian, Bonita Vista, San Ysidro and Chula Vista High Tech high schools attended clinics, practices and games.

During the fall season, the club provides a full girls program and will field a 12U boys team.

Training sites include Mt. Miguel and Monte Vista high schools and the Loma Verde pool in Chula Vista.

Making a splash

According to head coach Ernie Medina, Mustang South Coast Water Polo is more than a program, it is family, it is community and it is team — everything about healthy competition and friendship rolled into one.

“We play team handball to help the kids understand teamwork, we surf together to promote team bonding and fun, and we have family get-togethers to keep us grounded and appreciate our supporters,” the MSC coach explained.
The club ideals have been around for a while, though under different identities.

In the 1990s it started with the City of Chula Vista Water Polo Club, which featured a splash ball (Grommet Division), a boys and girls 18-under division and a masters team. The program evolved to the Mustang Water Polo Club in 2004 to provide instruction to water polo athletes for schools east of Interstate 805.

The program was then reformatted in 2013 to MSC Water Polo to provide instruction and competition to the Chula Vista, East County and coastal community areas.

MSC staff and athletes are registered under American Water Polo and participate in clinics, camps, games and tournaments.

The club has produced highly competitive teams and a pair of high school legends in the guise of Sarah Medina and Emma Cornwell. The younger Medina, daughter of MSC coach Ernie Medina, has gone on to play women’s collegiate water polo at UC Irvine while Cornwell was among the top goalkeeper recruits for the USC Trojans.

USC finished third at this season’s NCAA nationals while Irvine was sixth. The Trojans won the 2013 NCAA title.
Medina was part of UCI’s Big West Conference championship team.

“Our goal is to provide a quality water polo program for this area,” the elder Medina explained. “There are many programs that offer good things but we pride ourselves in bringing back community water polo pride. We also provide information and education to parents with water polo 101 classes.”

Medina has more than 30 years of coaching experience while Abby Wirsching is a UC Santa Barbara graduate who has two years of experience as an assistant coach.

Also on the coaching staff is Rachael Medina, who played at Mesa College and has four years experience as an assistant coach.

Trainer/coach Dennis O’Brien serves as team trainer/ chiropractor.

“Our motto this summer was Ohana — Hawaiian for ‘We are more than a program, we are family,’” Medina said.

Summer wrap
The MSC 18U boys team closed out summer league play with a 17-6 win over the Cowboys, El Capitan’s club team, on July 17 in a game played at Monte Vista High School.

Grady Romero and Wyatt Schmidt each scored three goals while Cooper Mestre and Emilio Maldonado each had two goals and Austin Kober, Caleb Macias, Christian Medrano, Josh Fischer, Riley Romero, Liam Romero and Anthony Torrol each scored one goal.

Torrol, Maldonado and Kober each collected two assists in the game while Ivan Hernandez and Mestre each picked up one assist.

Romero, Schmidt and Torrol each recorded two defensive steals while Emilio Maldonado and Macias each were credited with one steal.

In the cage, Matt Olimski made nine saves while collecting three steals and two assists while teammate Robert Lechner was credited with five saves.

All the players on the MSC 18U team also serve double duty on the MSC 16U team except Romero and Lechner.

Also rostered on the MSC 16U team are Andres Uribe, D.J. O’Brien, Christian Lewis, Emilio Cruz, Andy Carillo, Daniel Godinez and Connor Takesuye.

The East County League closed out Boys 16U action on July 16. MSC won the league title with a 9-1 win over Crusader.
Maldonado and Schmidt each had two goals while Mestre, Hernandez, Kober, Torrol and O’Brien each scored once in claiming undisputed rights to the league championship title.

Olimski had nine goalie saves while Godinez made four stops.

The MSC 16s finished in second place during a spring tournament and in first place during a summer tournament.

The MSC boys teams remain young, fielding players in ages 13-17, with an emphasis toward the younger end. Thus, the results in league play were very promising.

MSC defeated West Hills, 7-6, on July 9 behind three goals from Maldonado, two by Kober, and 13 saves by Olimski.
Maldonado had three goals in a 7-2 win over El Capitan and also scored three times in a 7-2 win over Valhalla in a pair of games played July 2.

“The kids are working to make themselves better,” Medina said.  “We’ve played Grossmont, Helix, West Hills, El Capitan, Santana, Steele Canyon and Valhalla — our South Bay guys can play with anybody now.”

CIF or bust
The San Diego Section will have a new look for its playoff divisions in 2014-15 as teams will be placed in tiers based on competition ability as opposed to student-enrollment. Many teams that had found little postseason success at the Division I level will now compete at the Division II level, and some teams from the Division II level will move even further down to the Division III level.

And there will be some movement from the bottom to the top as well.

Medina admits the divisional switch should help Metro Conference teams.

“This will help everybody in the South Bay,” Medina said. “All the South Bay teams will benefit.”

Summer league
Robin Sanchez, who has coached water polo at El Capitan High School since 1988, serves as director of the popular San Diego East County League. Its purpose is simple: to provide extra pool time for players during the extended off-season.
“This is to give teams an opportunity to get moving into the high school season,” Sanchez explained. “We have a mix of varsity players and junior varsity players who are competing.”

The league, which features a June to July timeline, includes boys and girls teams in 16-under and 18-under age divisions. Playing sites are throughout East County on weekday evenings.

League champions included Valhalla (18U boys), Rancho San Diego (18U girls), Mustang South Coast (16U boys) and Rancho San Diego and Waterdog (Helix), which tied for the 16U girls title.

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