With last year’s devastating loss to the Palm Desert Aztecs in the CIF championship game, the Malibu Sharks varsity water polo team is looking for redemption for the upcoming 2014-2015 season.
With a record of 30-1 last year, the Sharks broke an all-time school record, but ended up dropping the most important game of the season.
“It was a hard loss to end the season,” head coach Mike Mulligan said. “Anytime you lose the last game of the season, it’s tough.”
Mulligan said the road to the title will be more difficult this year, with plenty of formidable teams to play on their schedule.
To start the season, Malibu will compete in the Conejo Classic, a tournament they won last year. The Sharks could face the Ventura Cougars in the finals of the tournament, which Mulligan said would be a key game for his team.
The Sharks also have matchups against other strong teams during the year, including the Arroyo Grande Eagles in early September, the Santa Barbara Dons and the Santa Monica Vikings toward the end of the year. The Vikings, Mulligan said, are a top-10 Division IV team.
“Your goal is to go out and win every game,” Mulligan said. “But realistically, I don’t know if we can win every game. We have a lot of tough teams scheduled this year.”
Being a defensive-minded coach, Mulligan wants to see his team improve on that side of the pool.
“I really look forward to the team playing solid defense,” Mulligan said. “I just love to see teams that just play really strong, in-your-face defense.”
In terms of offense, star player Owen Franz, the team’s biggest threat, will return this season. But Mulligan said he’ll have some help this year in Phil Campanella, Spencer Sinding, who is coming from the junior varsity team, and Hans Cole, also from the JV team.
“I think we have some quality kids behind him that are going to be able to score quite a few goals,” Mulligan said. “So we’re not going to be offensively minded with one guy. I think we’re going to be pretty balanced.”
The Sharks had a strong showing during summer league, only losing to Santa Monica and the Rio Mesa Spartans. Mulligan’s team is itching to see those teams during the regular season.
“My team is really looking forward to playing Santa Monica and Rio Mesa again in the fall,” Mulligan said.
Other than winning games, Mulligan feels it’s important for his players to improve throughout the year.
“I don’t look at the record,” Mulligan said. “I look at how the kids progress though the season and where they end up. That’s what’s important.”
Despite least season’s gaudy record – and a third straight league title — Mulligan just wants to win it all, regardless of the final win-loss record.
“Our aspirations are not to go 31-0,” Mulligan said. “Our aspirations are go out and play good water polo, win league and win CIF.”
The Sharks’ seasons kicks off with a scrimmage on Sept. 2 in Santa Barbara.