The Los Altos High girls water polo team has discovered being short on subs has benefits beyond ample elbow room on the bench and the ability to sprawl out on bus rides to away games.
The rigorous training the Eagles endured to prepare for playing the season with only nine players has paid off in the water.
“We did a lot of swimming at the beginning of the year and that improved our endurance,” said team captain KK Sandlin. “It’s really helped us – we can last longer than other teams.”
Los Altos has outlasted every team in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division, improving to 10-0 with Thursday’s 11-3 thrashing of Monta Vista. The Eagles are 16-6 overall and having what coach Brian Whitlock called “a phenomenal season.”
Sandlin is having a sensational season individually as well. The senior leads Los Altos in goals, assists and steals.
“She seems to be everywhere in the pool at the same time, helping back on defense – consistently averaging 10 steals a game – and leading our offense,” Whitlock said. “We have a chance to do something that Los Altos has never done, and that’s win the CCS championships, and KK is a big part of why.”
Sandlin likes the Eagles’ odds of capturing that elusive Central Coast Section crown.
“If we play our game, we have a really good chance at winning CCS,” she said. “We’ll have to be mentally together – we have bad games when we’re not motivated and don’t play together. If we’re prepared, we can do it.”
Although Sandlin is the team’s standout player, she’s not winning games by herself.
“Without four other significant players on the Los Altos squad, we would not have a chance,” Whitlock said. “They have become an integral part of our team dynamic.”
The coach has worked with the four juniors – field players Olivia Santiago, Carrie Beyer and Katy Schaefer and goalie Nicole Larsen – since they arrived at Los Altos High.
Santiago “has shown she can shut down the offense of any girl we match her up with,” Whitlock said, while Beyer has moved from the driver to 2-meter set position this year to “become a threat to any team not willing to drop back and double-team her.” Schaefer “adds so much versatility to our offense that it is hard for teams to double-team (us),” the coach said, and Larsen “has shown even when defensive breakdowns happen, she’ll be able to keep us in the game with any team.”
Larsen leads a defense that has two shutouts.
“Our defense is always on top of it,” Sandlin said. “We’re good at making steals and have good instincts and know when to help each other out.”