By Ted Grozen
In a single high school water polo game, the average player will swim well over a mile, all the while wrestling with opponents and fighting for position. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Canyon Crest varsity water polo coach Charlie Equels, entering his fourth year heading the program, begins the season with tryouts incorporating two “hell weeks” during which his players have two intense workouts a day beginning as early as 5:30 a.m. These grueling practices are used to assess and improve each player’s water polo abilities, physical fitness, and endurance, helping Equels create a roster filled with players with not only talent but also strength and stamina.
At the end of the two weeks, the hard work paid off for 13 young men, as Equels announced his teams Aug. 25 at a team/parent meeting and dinner party. Comprising the varsity squad are seniors Taylor Dean (team captain), Jeff Elsner, Matteo Lanza-Billetta, Kevin Li, and Daniel Lifton; juniors Casey Crocamo, Jerry Guess, John Guess, Eric Schade, and Martín Vicario; and sophomores Kyle Grozen, Josh Trissel, and David Twyman were all named to the roster.
The reigning Valley League champions, Canyon Crest returns five starters from last year’s team, and in spite of losing league MVP Tyler Robinson to graduation are driven to repeat as league champions for the third consecutive year. However, the challenge for this team historically has not been league titles, but rather success in CIF competition.
As the #10 seed, Canyon Crest fell 5-0 to University City in the first round of the San Diego Section playoffs last year, and the program has never advanced past the 2nd round in its history. Having only lost 2 seniors off of last year’s team, however, Canyon Crest is very optimistic about their chances this year.
“Semifinals,” says junior Casey Crocamo. “The goal for this team is a top-5 seeding and then a run to the CIF semifinals. There’s no reason we can’t do it.”
Sophomore Kyle Grozen echoes Crocamo’s optimism: “We have a lot of really skilled, smart water polo players on this team, and plenty of depth coming off the bench. I think we can go really far into CIF’s, definitely.”
Clearly, hopes are very high for this young program. Canyon Crest opens its official season Sept. 16 with a nonleague matchup at Ramona High School.