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Auburn looks for a return to winning ways | Prep boys water polo
Just putting a team in the pool was a victory for last season's Auburn boys water polo squad.
After one season (2011) without a team, the Trojans managed to pool enough players to field a team in 2012, although not a very competitive one. Under Coach Jim Isom, who has coached Auburn water polo since he started the program in 1990, the Trojans went winless, finishing the season 0-14.
This year, with an influx of freshtalent augmenting its returning senior core, Auburn hopes to take the next step in its resurgence and start winning some matches, Isom said.
"Last year most of the team was new to the sport of water polo and to swimming," Isom said. "But most of the boys joined the swim team last winter. So this year I expect to be competitive with most of the teams in the league. Last year a few teams held some of their starters out against us. I'm hoping that the other teams won't have to be as kind to us this year."
One of the keys to success this year is the return of senior Andrew Nordlie, who sat out last season.
"Andrew played as a freshman, but when the Auburn team folded a couple years ago, Andrew concentrated on his soccer career," Isom said. "Andrew is probably our fastest, most athletic and most active player."
Joining Nordlie to pace the team offensively is returning senior Levi Golan, the team's leading scorer last season.
"He is our hole set, which is not unlike a center in basketball," Isom said. "The addition of Andrew should take a little pressure off Levi and should free up other players like (senior) Nathan Scholzen and (junior) Henry Estey, who have good outside shots."
Defensively, the Trojans will again rely on junior goalie Jacob McInerny between the pipes.
"Last year he had a lot of practice blocking one-on-goalie shots," Isom said. "This year, with nearly everybody joining the swim team, we should be better able to keep up with the rest of the teams in the league."
Also returning from last year's starting squad are senior Jesse Unzen and sophomore Dylan Beauprey.
Beyond his starters, Isom concedes, the cupboard starts to look a little bare. The team, he said, will have to adjust for that.
"Overall, we are lacking in experience outside of our starters," he said. "If we can play a deliberate and conservative half-court offense and stay away from an up-tempo game, we'll do well. We just don't have the numbers or the swimmers to do well if we get in a 'swim meet.'"
With all the players in place to field a competitive team, Isom said, his biggest task now is "changing the mindset of the boys and our expectations.'
"Last year we were just happy to have a team; this year we need to believe that we can be competitive, so we will continue to work hard," Isom said. "We have to recreate a winning tradition.
The Trojans play in the Auburn School District Boys Water Polo Tournament this Saturday and Sunday at the Auburn Pool.
ALSO: Last season the Auburn Riverside boys water polo team snagged a fifth-place finish at the Washington State championship tourney with a thrilling 7-6 overtime win over district rival Auburn Mountainview. Despite just three returning starters from last year's 18-2 squad – seniors Steven Summers, Jace Davey and Tristan Narnajo – 10th-year head coach Mike Van Eaton expects the Ravens to compete again. "(Our) team strength is always team chemistry and all the players having the same goal – learning the game and improving our play," Van Eaton said. "Team leadership is always a strength." In the water, Van Eaton said, the team will be keyed by the defensive play of Naranjo as well as the offensive play of Davey and senior Zac Johnson. Add in sophomore newcomer Daniel Godfrey and Auburn Riverside should be in the mix come postseason... Auburn Mountainview finished the season with a sixth-place finish at state after reeling off a 13-1 regular season. This year, with the bulk of last year's team returning (the team graduated just three seniors), the Lions look again poised for a run at the state tourney. Among the keys will be the team's leadership, including seniors Colin Lempert, Riley King, Brady Gardner, Jackson Sulewski and Jourdan Roberts. And with a program that now boasts more than 30 players, the future looks bright for Auburn Mountainview.