PaliHi Boys Water Polo Looks Strong

Boys water polo came to Palisades High school in the fall of 2011. For the past five years, they’ve won the City Section Championship.

A November 2016 Daily News Story “Palisades Boys Water Polo rolls to Another City Section Title” reported “It’s safe to say the Palisades boys water polo team owns the West Valley League.

“Palisades won its fifth consecutive L.A. City Section Division I championship Saturday afternoon after an easy 10-4 victory against Granada Hills at L.A. Valley College.

“Palisades beat Birmingham in 2012, 2014 and last year. The Dolphins knocked off El Camino Real in 2013.”

Will they make it six? About half of the team last year were seniors, which means Coach Adam Blakis is rebuilding. That factor might lull some teams into thinking beating Pali will be easy.

Luis Urias looks for a pass during a scrimmage with Alemany. Photo: Theo Trask

But that would be a mistake. The talent is deep on this team and the coaching impressive.

Starting with Blakis, who established Westside Aquatics in 2004. He started play- ing water polo when he was 11 and then played competitively for the next 25 years including at Santa Monica High School and for UC Riverside.

He has a strong assistant coach Kirk Lazaruk, who runs the girls program, and JV coach, PaliHi alum Sam Elias, who scored the first water polo goal for PaliHi in 2011.

“We’re definitely going for six,” Blakis said. “It’ll be a different team this year, one with more finesse.”

Assistant coach Kirk Lazaruk agrees and added that last year’s team was aggressive, but this team will have what he calls “higher water polo IQ.”

Junior varsity players get last-minute instructions from Coach Sam Elias. Photo: Theo Trask

This year is one of the biggest teams Blakis has had, with 19 on varsity and the same number on junior varsity.

The team has two seniors, Sammy Speiser, who is the team captain, and Michail Melnik, who alternated in goal last year with senior Brandon Epp. “We have mostly juniors this year,” Blakis said.

“Zeke [Ramirez] will be a leader on offense,” he said. As a sophomore Ramirez was a leading scorer. Another junior, “Theo Trask will anchor the defense.” Trask, who is 6’4” and a smart player, will make it hard for an attacker to find the net.

Other players to watch are attackman Oliver Grant (sophomore), and juniors Zach Wunder, Luis Urias and Max Crawford.

Head Coach Adam Blakis and senior and captain Sammy Speiser talk after a practice at the Maggie Gilbert Aquatics Center.

Last year in league play, the Dolphins had no losses and many of the final scores were extremely lopsided. Many of the schools in the league (Venice, San Pedro, Banning and Laces) did not have a JV team, so occasionally the PaliHi JV team would have the experience of playing a varsity team.

In order to challenge his players who find themselves in a weak league, Blakis schedules out-of-league games and enters his team in challenging tournaments.

They played the Long Beach tournament on August 25 and 26 and placed fourth. “We need to continue to build depth on the bench and get more of our starters involved in our offense,” Blakis said after the tournament, in which his team defeated Montebello (12-10), La Quinta (11-10) and Burroughs (20-6). They lost to Redondo Union (8-7) and Edison in Huntington Beach (14-11).

The Conejo Classic is September 8 and 9, and the team will also complete in the South Coast Mesa tournament on October 6.

Matt Garcia swims against Redondo.

League play will start with a game against Banning on September 25 and the CIF finals are November 11. The first home game is a non-conference against Santa Monica at 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 13.

This year for the first time the champion and the runner-up will advance to state playoffs.

“This gives us something else to aim for,” Blakis said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *