When the Palisades High School boys water polo team defeated Granada Hills, 6-5, in November for its sixth straight City Section title, the victory was extra sweet. This year, for the first time, the L.A. champion automatically qualified for the state playoffs.
After the championship game, Pali Coach Adam Blakis said, “Whoever we play in state, it will be our toughest opponent all year,” even though the Dolphins had played in several high-caliber tournaments.
When the CIF SoCal Division I tournament rankings came out, Palisades was seeded 8 and had to play top-seeded Mater Dei. Year in and year out, the water polo team has been one of that school’s finest sports programs, having reached the state finals nine consecutive years (2007-15).
Sure enough, on November 17, the Dolphins lost to Mater Dei 14-4. The Monarchs then defeated Harvard-Westlake, 10-7, in the regional semifinals and beat Newport Harbor, 12-4, for another championship.
“They were clearly the best team in the country this year,” Blakis said. “Our boys competed and played hard, but were out-matched. It was a good reminder of how far we need to go in order to compete at the top level.”
This was still an impressive year for PaliHi, which was 8-0 in Western/Marine League action, and 22-6 overall, while playing with only two seniors.
The Dolphins beat Brentwood (13-6) and Santa Monica (16-10) in non-league play, and defeated Malibu (9-6) to win the Malibu tournament in September. They had their best showing ever in the South Bay Tournament in October, defeating La Habra, Hoover and Santa Monica, before losing to Costa Mesa.
Junior defender Theo Trask won Most Valuable Player honors in the City Section, with seniors Mike Melnick (goalie) and Sammy Speiser and sophomore Oliver Grant making the All-City first team.
Juniors Zeke Ramirez and Zach Wunder and sophomore Maximo Speiser made the All-City second team.
With six of these honorees returning next year, PaliHi’s goal will be to advance past the first round in the state playoffs.