Monte Vista tries to stay afloat as new season begins

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For Monte Vista’s water polo team, rebuilding its program is an upstream swim. Ten seniors down from last year’s roster, the Monarchs are small in numbers, limited in experience, but fully loaded with good humor and hope.

Team captain Arturo Rodriguez said this is a growth year for the Monarchs and that the young team has adjusted its playing strategy accordingly.

For Monte Vista’s water polo team, rebuilding its program is an upstream swim. Ten seniors down from last year’s roster, the Monarchs are small in numbers, limited in experience, but fully loaded with good humor and hope.

Team captain Arturo Rodriguez said this is a growth year for the Monarchs and that the young team has adjusted its playing strategy accordingly.

“Me and a couple other guys are the only returners, everyone else is new,” he said. “We work on plays that we can all do and focus on teamwork instead of individual work.”

Water polo, a sport that is both physically exhausting and technical, is a hard one to jump into. Rodriguez said developing stamina is a priority.

“We’re all working on our separate things, we’re all improving,” he said. “But we need to be conditioned because we’re not quite to where we can swim the whole game.”

This became painfully obvious during their match against San Ysidro on Friday, September 8, 2017, when two of the players had to leave the pool due to leg cramps, senior Diego Sandoval and Rodriguez himself.

“I was talking smack about [Sandoval] and then I got a leg cramp too,” said Rodriguez with a laugh after the game. “Not enough bananas, I guess.”

Sandoval was pulled out during the second half, moments before his teammate, after a referee noticed him struggling in the water. San Ysidro players Edwin Inzunza, Dylan Godoy and team captain Jakob Balderas helped him swim to the edge of the pool and Sandoval was treated for cramps in his right calf while the game continued. Monte Vista lost 17-8.

“It’s a horrible, horrible feeling,” said Sandoval, who remained in good spirits throughout the game. “This is my second week in a row [getting a cramp] on the same right calf.”

Sandoval is one of the few returners on the varsity team, which is coached by Fernando Padilla, and one of the only seniors. It is a small roster, with just ten players. But every day has been an opportunity to improve, said Sandoval.

“It’s been getting there from the first day of practice,” he said.

With so few seasoned players to look up to, Sandoval said he is taking his responsibility as a team leader very seriously.

“I feel like they learn more from us because we’re older,” he said. “It’s cool to be known as the dude everyone looks up to, but of course you have to step and lead by example. Most of the time I’m here and I try to talk to people and get them to love the sport, because I wish I had known last year that I would like water polo so much.”

Monte Vista has a neutral non-conference game against Chula Vista on September 14, 2017 at 5 p.m.

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