Water Polo’s Resilience


Socially distanced training continues at the new pool

by Benjamin Martinez, Co-Business Manager

Ever since December of 2017, the Boys’ and Girls’ Aquatics teams have suffered through many hardships, however their resolve and determination enabled them to continue to strive for greatness.
The first hardship that the teams faced was when the pool’s plumbing malfunctioned in late December of 2017. During this period, Mr. Darren Sandvig was still coach of the program, as he had been for well over a decade. The girls’ water polo team was midway through their season, and off-season swimming was under way as well. As the coaching staff scrambled to find another facility where the teams could practice, the players were uncertain as to what the coming months would yield. Then in January of 2018, Coach Sandvig struck a deal with Cypress College that would let the program practice there for a fee. Now the girls’ water polo team had to face practicing at 5 a.m., on top of having to practice at a new pool. Senior Jeanie Velasquez remembers, “It was a struggle to wake up, but having a free afternoon was nice.” As the girls’ season drew to a close, the swim season began in early February. Now both the boys and girls would have to endure the frigid temperatures at the 5 a.m. practices. Practicing at 5 a.m. exposed the team members to a harsh lesson in determination, which is something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
After swim season finished, summer arrived bringing good news. The school’s quad was being revamped, and the pool would be done soon, by the start of the 2018-2019 school year. In the summer, Kennedy High School allowed the teams to hold their summer aquatics program at their pool. The teams were excited to play at their new pool, especially the boys who had their season first, in the fall. However it soon became clear that work had not even started on the pool, and so Kennedy High School allowed the boys’ team to practice during their season as well. Despite having to practice at a different school, the boys’ team did very well during the 2018 season, reaching the second round of CIF playoffs. Senior Jin-Ho Park reminisced about that uncertain time, “I didn’t really realize how bad losing our pool was until the completion date kept getting pushed back.” With the pool’s completion date uncertain, once again the girls’ water polo and swim teams practiced at Cypress College. This year, the teams fared much better as they had already become accustomed to the early mornings. The girls’ water polo team went to the second round of CIF playoffs, and the girls’ Varsity and JV swim teams were champions of the Empire League.
The summer of 2019 dealt another two blows to the aquatics teams, as Coach Sandvig retired after coaching for nearly twenty years, and the pool was delayed once again. All of the other coaches who had also been at CHS for many years left as well. Now without a pool or a coach, the older players were the only thing that held the team together. Finally new coaches were found, Coach Reilhe Saldana and two other coaches were hired, and soon after Kennedy allowed the teams to practice at their pool again. At the end of the boys’ season, the issue of finding new coaches arose once again.”This aquatics team has faced many hardships, but the same core players remain,” said Senior Luis Ortiz about the resilience of the team. Before the girls’ season began two new coaches, Jason Stone and Jeffrey Park were hired. With these new coaches, the team did remarkably well, as the girls’ water polo team became champions of the Empire League in January of 2020. Senior Hannah Thode praises the new coaches saying that winning the Empire League was, “a great start to the coaches’ time at Cypress.” For the 2020 swim season, Savanna High School allowed our team to practice at their pool. The future seemed bright, as there was a new promise that the pool would be done by June, and the new coaches had big plans. However, the unthinkable happened, and the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic canceled all athletics for many months.
This dark cloud came with a silver lining, the pool was finally completed after nearly three years. Now, despite restrictions on practicing time and contact, the boys’ and girls’ water polo teams are still going strong, giving it their all at practice. Their response to challenges proved that nothing will stop this team from achieving greatness. Those who endured, from those freezing cold mornings in 2017 to the uncertainty of the pandemic, have displayed tremendous resilience, and a hunger for victory.