SD Prep Sports: Water Polo

E-mail us at [email protected]


Home   Swimming/Diving   Cross Country  Track & Field   Roller Hockey   Water Polo   CIF Scorecard


Game of the Week: Hilltop 12, Pt. Loma 7

Lancers seek consistency in making climb back uphill to glory days


To view the Hilltop-Pt. Loma game action photo album, click here


By Phillip Brents

CHULA VISTA, Oct. 4, 2001 -- Though game results may not necessarily show it in the immediate sense, the Hilltop High boys water polo team has started the climb back up the mountain in an effort to replant the flag of the program’s glory days.

The Lancers captured the South Bay League championship when the sport was refunded by the Sweetwater Union High School District in 1987 and dominated the league for several years thereafter, sharing a Metro Conference banner with Bonita Vista when the South Bay League and Mesa League were merged back into one conference, as is the case now for the sport.


Hilltop’s 2000 entry finished the season with just two wins, though the Lancers did manage to improve upon their sixth-seeded position at the season-ending conference tournament with a fourth-place finish after topping third-seeded Montgomery in an exciting overtime contest in the quarterfinals.


The 2001 team is looking to maintain that forward progress, though it still has a tendency to look over its shoulder at times.


"I think we’ve made tremendous progress but we remain inconsistent," explained Linda McCoy, who shares coaching responsibilities with John Salts, a former player at Chula Vista High who can recall firsthand the glory days for Hilltop, albeit from an opponent’s standpoint.


The Lancers improved their seasonal record to 4-8 following a 12-7 non-league victory Oct. 4 against Pt. Loma at the Loma Verde pool. The victory came on the heels of a disappointing 18-4 Metro Conference setback the previous day to Montgomery at Vista Terrace. The previous Friday, Hilltop dropped a 22-3 decision to Bonita Vista yet played an aggressive game, according to Salts, who otherwise expressed his displeasure with his team’s showing against the Aztecs.


With a 4-1 first quarter edge against winless Pt. Loma (0-6), the Lancers were able to work out some of the kinks in their game.


"Sometimes we get off to a slow start. This game (against Pt. Loma) we got off to a fast start. That shows our inconsistency," McCoy explained.


Starters include senior goalie Pedro Martinez, sophomore wing Nick Davidson, senior flat David Watkins, sophomore flat Kyle Kovar, senior two-meter set Richard Davidson and junior hole set Nick Kolata and junior wing Jeff Schroeder, with Kolata and Richard Davidson being the team leaders in and out of the water. The team is three deep on the bench with Robbie Davidson, Ryan Michaelsen and Matt Silva.


There are five three-year program players on this year’s squad: seniors Richard Davidson, Martinez and Watkins and juniors Robbie Davidson and Michaelsen.


Salts said expectations for this year’s team are to pool individual talent into one cohesive team, with players working together for a common goal. It's a step -- or rather, as one player put it, according to Salts, "a new revolution" for Hilltop in the quest to regain the glory days of Lancer polo. Under their combined direction, McCoy and Salts have built a strong foundation in work ethic, commitment and desire. Those qualities are borne out by the large turnout for this year's team. A back to basics approach in coaching water polo has started to pay dividends in the early going.


"In practice, we’re not looking at six or seven different plays. We’ve gone back to fundamentals and are stressing the basics," Salts explained.


The turnaround began in the season opening Poway Invitational. Though the Lancers dropped all five of their contests in the water (one game was officially a forfeit, though the teams decided to keep score), Hilltop’s players and coaches managed to forge a common ground following lopsided setbacks to Carlsbad (22-0) and Granite Hills (16-1).


The catalyst was a team meeting held at the tournament, according to Salts. "We gave the team the chance to hear the coaches’ expectations for the season and the expectations that Richard Davidson, one of our senior captains, had for the team," Salts said. "They came out of that meeting and played Oceanside and lost just by one goal. The turnaround was more in terms of attitude than in winning games. The players found out what they were really made of and more importantly what they can achieve when they play together as one unit. We came out of this tournament with a strong confidence in our team's ability to show well in league this year."


Key conference games for Hilltop include Wednesday’s meeting with Eastlake at the Loma Verde pool and the following Wednesday’s matchup with Chula Vista at the Parkway pool. The Lancers defeated the Spartans, 5-4, in overtime in a non-league contest earlier this season. "There seems to be two teams that show up sometimes. We were losing 4-1 against Chula Vista and then they decided to play water polo in the last quarter," Salts said.


Becoming more consistent will be an obvious focus for the team for the remainder of the season.


Hilltop’s strength remains the ability to play as a team through adversity. As for individual strengths, the Lancers are fairly balanced — an area in which this year’s team excels over last year’s group.


Richard Davidson paced the team in scoring in the win against Pt. Loma with four goals and three assists while receiving offensive support from Watkins (four goals, one assist), Kolata (three goals, two assists) and Schroeder (one goal). Defensively, Kolata keyed the team with six steals while Nick Davidson contributed four steals. From the cage, Martinez made 12 saves while collecting one assist and two steals. His standout play in the second period, during which he made five saves, helped frustrate a determined Pointer comeback bid as Hilltop built up a 7-2 halftime lead.


Salts has been impressed by his netminder’s play and believes that Martinez could contend for the league's top goalie award. The Lancers are also buoyed by the speed of sprinter Nick Davidson (the fastest swimmer on the team) and the strong arm of Watkins. McCoy calls Davidson one of the most improved players on the team and it’s his speed that allows the team to initiate many of its counter-attacks. Watkins proved that he’s a scoring threat from anywhere in the pool after gunning in the final goal of the game against Pt. Loma from midtank with one second left on the score clock. Both Schroeder and Kovar -- the Metro's reigning Diver of the Year -- can also spring surprise attacks of their own.


Areas to work on still focus on swimming. Though the Lancers have a lot of talent, they still may lack the conditioning it takes to make it to the elite levels of the game. "Once the team realizes what it takes to make it to the next level, this team will surprise a lot of people," Salts explained.


That could be closer than many think. The biggest difference between last season’s team and this year’s squad is apparent in the degree of commitment. "This year's team has already shown it in making itself a better team. Everyone shows up ready to give all they have to the team. To me, that is what it takes to be a winner!" Salts said.


Lancer notepad

Kolata scored the game-winner in the Sept. 20 overtime decision against Chula Vista by converting his own steal. Other Hilltop goals in the game were scored by Richard Davidson, Nick Davidson and Watkins while Martinez had 12 saves. The Lancers followed the OT win with a 7-4 loss to Mission Bay the next day and dropped an 11-4 decision to Clairemont on Sept. 25. Robbie Davidson, Richard Davidson and Kovar scored in the loss to Bonita Vista on Sept. 28.


Pt. Loma defeated Hilltop, 8-4, in junior varsity action on Oct. 4 behind a six-goal performance by Caleb Pallus. The Lancer JV squad has two wins this season. In the varsity matchup, Randal Hark led the Pointers with four goals.

Hosted by