Anew coach and new players, but the same aspiration: winning the City Section girls water polo title. Since the program’s inception at Palisades High School in 2011, the girls team has reached the championship match four times, but has yet to return with a title.
That’s about to change this year, according to one of last year’s leading scorers, Jackie Au. “It’s great this year. We’re confident, and the girls are dedicated,” she said.
This year’s coach is Kirk Lazaruk, who served as the boys assistant water polo coach this fall. Although league play doesn’t start until January 9 against Banning (at Banning), he set up off-season training for the girls.
“The enthusiasm of the team has been off the charts,” Lazaruk said. With 29 girls on the team, the school will field a varsity and a junior varsity team for the first time.
Since many schools in the City Section lack a competitive water polo team, Lazaruk was asked how he would deal with a scarcity of teams to play.
“We can play as many games as we want against non-league teams, such as Brentwood, and we will enter tournaments,” said Lazaruik, who plans to keep his JV team busy, too. The Dolphins will enter tournaments in Burbank and Ayala over the winter break.
Last year, Palisades lost to Eagle Rock in the City finals, 12-9. This was the fourth
straight match-up between the two teams, but Lazaruk is predicting a different result this year.
“We’re putting a big emphasis on water polo IQ, teaching the girls the nuances of the game,” Lazaruk said. “We will have three to four defensive schemes and seven to eight offensive plays.
“Once you understand the game, you develop a love of the sport. The girls also develop a sisterhood in and out of the water,” he said.
With a new coach, comes a new attitude. “We don’t allow drama,” Lazaruk said.
“There’s respect for each other. You can’t be catty out of the pool and then be friends in the water.”
The first match this year was against Malibu on Nov. 30 at Palisades, which included varsity and JV play. The Dolphins won, 14-5.
Last Friday, the girls defeated El Camino, 11-3. Jackie Au scored 4 goals, Lily Ramos 3, Clara Saab 2 and Leighanne Estabrook and Ally Stahl one each.
The next home league match is January 18. Looking a few months into the future,
Lazaruk said: “We haven’t been dominate in girls water polo. We haven’t won a championship, but it’s because we didn’t have enough skill development.”
He is taking care of the training; now it’s up to the girls to take it from here—and he expects to see a title this year.