Texas State High School Championships in Austin

An old friend and teammate from California’s Bay Area who’s lived in Dallas for nearly a decade sat next to us for the final day of Texas’ high school championships in Austin the past Saturday. “I had no idea this many teams played water polo in Texas” he commented upon observing that the TISCA tournament was the busiest weekend of polo he could remember. This from a man who had hopped in and scrimmaged with club teams in Dallas in the past – not entirely clueless about the sport in Texas.

It was a tribute to Texas high school water polo this weekend in Austin– a tournament run with efficiency, enthusiasm, and drama, with the kind of fan support that echoes off the baffled rooftops. And at the end the championship matches, featured dramatically smack in the center of University of Texas’ gorgeous swim center long course pool, were surprisingly tense and competitive: a fitting end to the weekend’s events, and hopefully one that more non-Texans will sample in years to come. Some observations:

  • A tournament administrator commented to another during the boys’ championship match, “this game is a lot closer than I expected.” That was a common view among observers who mostly thought that Clear Creek was overmatched by experienced and undefeated Strake Jesuit. But Creek simply outplayed Jesuit in the first half until the Crusaders defensive pressure and effective counterattack changed the match’s momentum. Creek goalie Scott Lyle did well in the first half to turn away several shots convincingly and Jesuit’s defense broke down often enough to give the Wildcats the early lead. The Crusaders intensified their defensive pressure and created more favorable match-ups to reverse the trend. Never out of danger though they won by will more that tactics.
  • Clear Lake’s girls were poised to win their championship matchup with Clear Creek but broke down defensively and simply ran out of gas after a grueling schedule (MVP Taylor Silva from Lakes was exhausted). Creek forced and exploited enough mistakes to frustrate the Falcons and pull away to hand them their fist loss of the year to the delight of the substantial Creek crowd.
  • Strake Jesuit’s Liam Jennis was accepted to Loyola Marymount before their coaching staff even knew of his interest in playing there. Jennis will redshirt his first season and hopes to add some bulk to his very lean 6′ 6″ frame this Fall. He was also considering Air Force Academy and Santa Clara.
  • Some other players who drew our attention: Alvin’s Logan Webb is uncommonly crafty and a fine finisher. St. Mark’s Timothy Simenc has the size (6′ 3″?) to post up but is also an effective lefty driver and is only a Freshman. Combined with Sophomore goalkeeper Bradley Mankoff, the Lions have a hopeful future. Strake Jesuit’s Nate Zuiker will be spinning defenders and contributing a good left-handed shot to University of Texas’ club team this coming school year. Clear Springs’ Elsa Ybarra [who plans to walk on at Arizona State. Updated 5/7] had some noticeable games in the preliminary matches.
  • The level of enthusiasm among players and fans is heartening and exciting. Not everything is undeserving of critique (passing, ball handling, man-up situations, and counterattacking come to mind), but those aside, it was a memorable event and one TWp will attend if at all possible in 2013.