Summer league sets the stage for hotly contested high school boys water polo season among East County standout programs

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The race for this year’s Grossmont Hills League boys water polo championship appears to be hotly contested. Front-runners include the Valhalla Norsemen, Grossmont Foothillers and Steele Canyon Cougars.

Valhalla won last year’s league title while Grossmont captured the San Diego Section Division I championship.

“All three teams return a lot of players, so the league title should be closely contested,” veteran Valhalla coach Kent Houston said.

The race for this year’s Grossmont Hills League boys water polo championship appears to be hotly contested. Front-runners include the Valhalla Norsemen, Grossmont Foothillers and Steele Canyon Cougars.

Valhalla won last year’s league title while Grossmont captured the San Diego Section Division I championship.

“All three teams return a lot of players, so the league title should be closely contested,” veteran Valhalla coach Kent Houston said.

Though the regular season schedule starts in late August, teams began preparing for the upcoming campaign by participating in summer league play.

The San Diego East County Summer League is one of the oldest running leagues and features boys and girls 16U and 18U divisions. The philosophy behind the offseason play is to prepare athletes for their upcoming high school season while providing an appropriate venue for demonstrating sportsmanship within a positive learning environment.

The 16U leagues generally serve the junior varsity level while the 18U leagues include varsity-caliber players.

Valhalla competed as the Sons of Odin during play in the 18U boys league during June and July.

The Norsemen’s off-season club team finished undefeated at 6-0 during summer league play.

Houston, who is in his 34th year of coaching, looks to field another strong VHS varsity team in 2018. He noted there are 10 returners from last year’s league championship squad.

The makeup of this year’s unit includes 13 seniors, one junior and 20 sophomores.

Next year looks to be a rebuilding season.

“We have been playing a lot all summer,” Houston said. “Our team chemistry is really getting good having so many players playing together for so long. However, after this year we will graduate 13 players.”

Grossmont competed in this summer’s 16U and 18U leagues as did teams representing West Hills, El Capitan, Monte Vista, Helix and Santana high schools.

League play wrapped up in the 18U division July 12 at Monte Vista High School. The 16U boys and girls divisions used the Montgomery Middle School pool as a venue site while Valhalla High School hosted the 18U girls division.

Games were played throughout the week at the various East County sites.

“Grossmont should be very good this season,” Houston noted. “We played them eight times over the summer and it was always a one-goal game between the teams.

Steele Canyon also has a lot of returning players and their players have also been playing during the summer, so I expect they will field a strong team as well.”

Top returners for the Norsemen include goalie Ben Sange and field players Thomas O’Carroll, Andrew Higginson, Matt Ramey, Eric Nordquist, Jake Pyjar and Sheldon French.

The Norsemen finished 24-5 last season, advancing to the Open Division playoffs.

Houston is counting on summer league to give his team a boost heading into fall training camp.

“The summer league helps develop player continuity,” the VHS coach said. “We’re good. But we can be better.”

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