One step toward addressing the bulletin board swagger that occasionally colors debate between high school water polo regions is taking place beginning on Thursday.
St. Xavier of Cincinnati will be the first ever team from Ohio to travel to California to play high school competitors during the fall season. They will face CIF D2 runners up Dana Hills in their opening match of the highly competitive, 24-team Santa Barbara Tournament, which features some of the top teams in Southern California.
Orange Lutheran features juniors Hanes Daube, and Ash Molthen, who are members of the USA Water Polo Youth National Team. Drake and Campolindo were CIF North Coast Section Division 1 finalists last year, with Campolindo handing Drake (29-1) its only loss in the title game, 5-4. Both teams return several key players. Loyola also returns most its squad from a team that went 24-5 and advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 semifinals.
Teams from Washington and Oregon are now common participants in California prep tournaments. But St. Xavier is the first from the Midwest or, apparently, any other fall-playing region to do so.
Coach Mike Roberts first made noises about taking his team to California three years ago when his team was made up largely of sophomores. Those plans heated up after the team won the Ohio title a year ago, after which Roberts began searching for competitions that would fit the Jesuit school’s schedule and give the team a challenge. The Santa Barbara Tournament fit the bill and Coach Mark Walsh was excited to have them take part.
The Bombers recently won the Rockford August Invite Tournament defeating top- and second-ranked Okemos and Rockford on the way to the title. They will also vie for a championship at the Beast of the East tournament in Pennsylvania later this month.