New water polo coaches make a splash in East County

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A new current of talent and perspective is driving the East County water polo season this year.

Hoping to revitalize and reinvigorate programs and players, two new coaches have taken their places by the pools of Monte Vista and Santana high schools, whistles poised and ready.

Both schools have middle-of-the-pack teams and are looking for a little push to help them dive further up the standings of their conference, Grossmont Valley, and out into playoffs at the end of the year.

A new current of talent and perspective is driving the East County water polo season this year.

Hoping to revitalize and reinvigorate programs and players, two new coaches have taken their places by the pools of Monte Vista and Santana high schools, whistles poised and ready.

Both schools have middle-of-the-pack teams and are looking for a little push to help them dive further up the standings of their conference, Grossmont Valley, and out into playoffs at the end of the year.

Will Hutchison said his players have made the transition into Santana’s program an easy one.

“We have a lot of really good senior leadership and that’s been great,” he said. “They’ve helped me integrate into a new league and a new situation at a new school.”

Santana varsity co-captain Emily Bodor said Hutchison has made the team more dynamic.

“He’s bringing in a lot of new ideas, a new way of looking at water polo, which I think is helping us a lot,” said Bodor. “Nobody plays one position now. We’re all moving around so we’re all kind of understanding how everyone is working.”

Hutchison, who has played water polo since he was 13, has a long history of coaching. He has been involved with programs in North County, in the Inland Empire, and Hawaii.

But Thursday night brought him and the Sultans to Monte Vista’s pool for a conference match, his first official one against the Monarch’s new coach, Kimmy Keach. 

Keach is herself an accomplished water poloist as well as a Monarch alumna. At San Diego State University, she played for the Aztec’s Division I team. Keach is currently a substitute teacher at Monte Vista. Coaching the girls varsity water polo team, said Keach, has been a good fit for her.

“I’m really enjoying it, getting to know the girls,” she said. “I played water polo for 16 years, so this is just me getting back into it.”

Thursday’s game was a well-balanced match. Santana’s offensive was persistent and well-coordinated, nearly a match for Monte Vista’s goalie, Olivia Tavernelli, who seemed to hold together her team in the pool while never leaving the goalie box. 

“Our biggest strength would definitely be our goalie,” said Keach after the game. “She’s been on fire. She had 20 blocks against Grossmont on Tuesday, at least 10 or 15 tonight.”

But Keach said, as a unit, the team’s strength is in their passion and commitment to each other. 

“As a whole, Monte Vista’s strength is probably our team spirit, working and accomplishing things together,” she said. “You can’t win a water polo game without seven people.”

The Sultans, who won the match against the Monarchs 13-7, are more geared for longevity, said Hutchison. 

“Our biggest strength is that we can bring players in off the bench who can contribute,” he said. “We’re not just a six-deep team. We’ve got a senior heavy team, but I’ve got these young players knocking on the door really looking for playing time and earning it.”

The Sultans, following their victory at Monte Vista and a win at La Jolla on Saturday, are now 10-8 for the season and looking at possible playoff potential. 

With just a handful of conference games left before the postseason tide comes in, both programs have their work cut out for them. 

The Sultans have an away game against the conference leader El Capitan on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Monte Vista travels to El Cajon Valley to battle the Braves.

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