For the second time in three years, the Los Altos High boys water polo team is blowing the rest of the league out of the water.
The Eagles clinched the round-robin title early last week – with three games to play – and entered this final week of the regular season with a sparkling 10-0 record in the SCVAL De Anza Division.
But unlike 2017, when Los Altos went undefeated in the De Anza, this team has strength in numbers.
“Two guys carried that team – we were very top heavy,” said tri-captain Boris Palant, a member of both squads. “This year, we pride ourselves on being very deep. Everyone in the water is contributing to the team equally. There’s no clear-cut No. 1 player destroying the rest of the league – we’re all talented.”
Seth Tasman, in his eighth year as head coach, agreed.
“This team is very deep and more well-rounded than that team,” he said. “Anyone in the water can score and make something happen.”
Eight Eagles scored in Thursday’s 20-14 home win over rival Mountain View.
Having so many players contribute to the cause is the primary reason Tasman dubbed this his “strongest team to date” – ahead of the 2017 edition that finished 24-3 after bowing out of the playoffs in the Central Coast Section Open Division quarterfinals.
At 18-2 overall, Los Altos is a near lock to again qualify for the Open Division, which brings together the top eight teams in CCS, regardless of school enrollment.
“We want to stay undefeated through the league tournament to show the CCS seeding committee we belong in the Open,” Palant said. “Then if we win a game there, we get to NorCal.”
Not that the senior field player would be satisfied with just one playoff win.
“The ultimate goal is to win CCS Open or Division I,” he said. “Last year, we made it to the Division I final and lost to Paly, which was devastating. But that’s helped us stay focused this year.”
The Eagles opened this season with eight straight victories, then went on a seven-game winning streak after a 14-10 loss to Tamalpais at the Pete Cutino Cup in Carmel. Los Altos’ second defeat also occurred at a tournament, the Jesuit Classic Invitational in Sacramento, where Rio Americano clipped the Eagles 11-10 Oct. 11.
“That tournament was a real test for us,” said Tasman, whose squad went 3-1 over two days. “We faced two of the best teams in the Sacramento area and proved that we can play with them.”
The Eagles’ keen ability to score goals – and prevent them – has enabled the team to play with just about anyone. Los Altos has produced 305 goals and allowed only 176 this season.
“Everyone can score, and our defense is very cohesive,” Palant said. “Normally we run a press, and the team chemistry and communication has been great.”
That has a lot to do with experience, according to Palant and Tasman. The Eagles returned all but one starter from last year’s team – with sophomore Aidan Mitchell replacing the now-graduated Greg Roper in goal – and most of the team has played together since junior high.
“They’re all friends; they hang out together and eat lunch together,” Tasman said. “There’s a great team environment.”
Eight of the 16 players are seniors, most of whom play integral roles on the team. Along with Palant, whom Tasman called “a hard worker,” the coach praised top scorer Alex Brett (“he makes a killing on the counterattack”), tri-captain Adam Hollingworth (“our primary center defender and he shoots the ball well”), Kyle Bistrain (“dominating at 2-meter”) and lefty Kyle Johnson (“our primary passer”).
Junior Owen Brunner rounds out the starting lineup. Tasman said several players contribute off the bench, including Daniel Behar, Joseph Feldman-Peterson, Juntao Ren and Bar Weiner.
Los Altos is slated to play at Wilcox 6:45 p.m. Thursday.