2016-09-23 / Sports

Royal seeks winning formula

Boys’ water polo team is ranked No. 4 in CIF-SS Division 4
By Jonathan Andrade


RISE ABOVE—Jaeger Gonzales, a sophomore utility, attempts to score a goal during Royal High boys’ water polo practice on Sept. 20. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers RISE ABOVE—Jaeger Gonzales, a sophomore utility, attempts to score a goal during Royal High boys’ water polo practice on Sept. 20. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Matt Frazier has high expectations for the Royal High boys’ water polo team.

A 4-3 overall record to start the season might cut it for some teams and coaches, but the demanding second-year head coach said he believes his team is capable of playing better.

“They’re still not playing up to where they need to be playing,” Frazier said, “but it’s still early in the season.”

Two losses came against tough opponents. The Highlanders fell to Ventura, ranked No. 9 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 poll, on Sept. 7. They also dropped a match to Division 1 Mira Costa on Sept. 16. Royal is No. 4 in Division 4.

Royal fares well when it works together as one cohesive unit, but Frazier said the Highlanders still get stuck playing “1-on-6” in some games rather than spreading the ball to their arsenal of offensive weapons.


WAITING ROOM—Royal’s Matt Bado is a talented junior driver who wants to play water polo in college. WAITING ROOM—Royal’s Matt Bado is a talented junior driver who wants to play water polo in college. “In the losses, we didn’t play as a team,” the coach said. “We played as individuals. That’s something we have to try to get out of.”

Royal has all the pieces to challenge for a league title.

“We’re smart individually,” said Luke Dominick, a senior goalie, “but I think if we can play smart as a team, we can beat anybody.”

Royal hasn’t forgotten about last season’s second-place finish in the Coastal Canyon League. A surging Moorpark won its first league title in program history in 2015.

Frazier didn’t mince words when asked what Royal needs to do to come away with the league crown this season.

“Beat Moorpark,” he said. “We have to take first in our league. After that, we’ll see how it goes.”

Matt Bado, a junior driver, said he knows it won’t be easy knocking the Musketeers off the top perch.

“It’s going to be a tough fight against Moorpark,” Bado said. “We shouldn’t have a problem with the other teams. It’ll come down to us and Moorpark for the championship.”

The teams meet for the first time at Body Xchange Sports Club on Oct. 5. The teams clash again on Oct. 26 at Rancho Simi Community Park pool.

Royal opens league play at 3:15 p.m. Sept. 28 against Camarillo at home.

Dominick is a solid keeper in the cage.

“He should be one of the top goalies in the division,” Frazier said of the goalie.

Johnny Lavallee, a senior 2-meter who also pitches and plays left field for Royal’s baseball team, led the Highlanders in goals and steals last season.

Bado runs the offense at point. The junior driver wants to continue playing water polo at George Washington University or San Jose State University after wrapping up his prep career at Royal.

Jaeger Gonzales, a sophomore, is a talented goalie who is roaming the field this season. He does a little bit of everything for the Highlanders at utility.

Jonah Brewer, one of Royal’s top water polo players in seasons past, is ineligible to play for undisclosed reasons until Oct. 17. Frazier said he thinks Brewer can give the Highlanders a boost heading into the final games of the regular season.

Frazier declined to name any other player on the varsity roster, including two starting freshmen, because “they haven’t earned it yet,” he said.

Lavallee said his goal is to help the Highlanders reach the postseason.

“The last three years we’ve gotten to the first round, but we’ve had injuries that stopped us,” he said. “I’m hoping we can get past that first round this year.”

Frazier said he’s confident the team can make noise in the playoffs. He said Royal is capable of at least reaching the section semifinals.

The coach said the Highlanders must be ready to earn a formidable playoff seeding during league.

The Musketeers stand in the Highlanders’ way.

“If we play water polo the way I know we can play water polo, we’ll beat (Moorpark),” he said. “If we play like we’ve been playing, we’re not going to do it. We have to come out and play.”

Return to top