The Palo Alto High School boys’ water polo team looks to overcome changes and improve on its second round exit from Central Coast Section last year as its season gets underway today with a non-league game.
One of the major changes this year for the Vikings will be that the team won’t be able to play in a home pool. Instead, they have been practicing and playing at the Rengstorff Pool in Mountain View. Once the regular season begins, the team will play home games at Gunn High School’s pool.
According to senior right hand driver Winston Rosati, not having a home pool has been an nuisance.
“It has been a big inconvenience in terms of logistics and has made certain practice drills much harder to do, but we can certainly do our best with it,” Rosati said.
New head coach Aaron Johnson agreed that having no pool might be a hindrance, but he attributed a smooth transition to the new Paly athletic director and team parent.
“It has definitely been a challenge not having our own pool this season, but we have not let it become a set-back,” Johnson said. “Our athletic director Kathleen Bowers and our team parent Kristen Anderson have done an amazing job making the transition go as smooth as possible. We are also grateful to be able to use Gunn High School as our home pool this year.”
Another place the team has experienced change is at the coaching position. Although Johnson is a new head coach, he has had some experience working with the Paly water polo team.
“I was previously the Paly Frosh/Soph coach for the past few seasons, so when the varsity job opened up, I was ready to step in to the position,” Johnson said. “It is something I have been looking forward to for quite some time.”
According to junior right hand driver Andrew Jozefov, Johnson’s style will help the team get better this year.
“I really like his style,” Jozefov said. “It is really structured which I feel is definitely going to help us. … He holds us to a high standard and expects us to be able to execute.”
The team also lost a few key contributing seniors including Lucas Novak, Seth Alston, Ray Zhao, Hans Usman and Luke Schroder.
“There were some really hard-working team leaders that graduated last year, which is a big loss to this team,” Johnson said. “Lucas Novak redefined the role of captain. He was an amazing leader, positive influence on everyone around him and always pushed himself and teammates to be the best they can.”
However, Johnson believes that there are many players who are capable of stepping up to offset losses.
“I am however, lucky to have a lot of young talent coming up,” Johnson said. “One in particular is Jack Anderson, a sophomore with a starting position on varsity. He is an underclassman with a big task.”
Despite the many changes, the team has set high goals.
“Our goals are to win SCVAL [Santa Clara Valley Athletic League] league and to get top three at CCS [Central Coast Sections],” Rosati said.
Jozefov is using last year’s disappointment to fuel himself this season.
“Last year we had a first round bye and got knocked out in the second round and that was pretty disappointing,” Jozefov said. “We hope to get to the semis this year.”
According to Johnson, the team has the right mindset and is excited to begin its season.
“We’re going out focusing on winning one quarter at a time and playing consistent water polo. We are looking forward to getting this season rolling.”
The Viking’s first game is against Jesuit High School at 7 p.m. today in Davis.