Some words come to mind after spending time with three senior captains of the La Jolla Country Day boys water polo team: strength and nobility.
"We have our core covenants: SPFL — sacrifice, pain, failure, love. We all sacrifice something to be at practice. We failed last year to go as far as we wanted in the playoffs,” says Daniel Hotson, a driver on the 4-5 (right) side of the goal. “So we came in this year with a chip on our shoulder.”
“We want to love what we do, and love everyone we play with,” continues head coach Steve Traverso, in his 13th year, a span that started on a rough note when LJCDS had to practice at four different venues. He admits, “It was tough to get kids to come out.”
This season, culture in place, a care for senior down through freshman, according to goalkeeper Matthew Tibbetts, the Torreys were 17-7 at one point and working together. “We have a bond,” says Tibbetts. “We do things outside water polo to build that. In tournaments at Diamond Bar and Chino Hills, we had different room assignments each time at the hotels.”
“And no one complained,” chimes in Hotson.
“We have a very open dialogue here,” says Traverso, a sixth-grade history teacher at the school, who prefers his players call him by his first name. “One night we won a game but it was way closer than it should have been. I started to focus on the negative. After the game, I apologized to the team, and they received it.”
Besides Tibbetts, a first-time starter in the cage this year, and Hotson on the perimeter at the 4-5, Country Day’s starters include junior Cameron Mirbod, utility; junior Liam Alford, a 1-2 (left side) driver; senior Austin Yang, guarding the 2-meter (center); sophomore Colton Ace, 4-5, a lefty; and junior Sam He, 2-meter offense. (Six play at a time in water polo.)
“I feel like the game we played Santana Oct. 5 was a key point,” offers Yang, who along with Hotson and Tibbetts, serves as a senior captain. “We went into the fourth quarter even, then we got blown out by three [actually four] goals. After that, things were different.” Team members took the loss to heart, and became even more determined.
The Torreys, moving up from Division 3 in CIF to Division 2 this year, play in the Central League (City Conference). Traverso prefers not to share team statistics, the same as some other water polo coaches. “I think we have a group of very unselfish players,” he says, tying it into why he doesn’t publish individual stats.
At a recent weekday workout at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center across the street from the school, Traverso and fourth-year head JV coach Drew Martin ran the 17 varsity players through shooting drills. There was a lot of energy, a lot of instruction by Traverso, and interaction among the players.