Water polo: Locals playing on big stage

Monte Vista High’s Maggie Steffens is playing with the U.S. National water polo team in the FINA World League Super Final in La Jolla this week and USA water polo is streaming every match live on their website. You can check it out here.

Steffens, who will be a senior at Monte Vista this fall and is the team’s youngest player, scored in all three of the U.S.’ preliminary round wins. The team defeated Canada last night in the quarterfinals and today play against Greece in a 7 p.m. semifinal.
Continue Reading


Coaching series

We are running a three-part series on high school coaches. The series started Monday with stories on coaches who are starting out. Tuesday’s package will be on coaches and what they endure to stay at it, and Wednesday we will close with coaches who got out. What’s surprised me is the candor of which coaches spoke of their respective hardships, especially in dealing with parents. It used to be whenever a coach told a reporter about anything in that realm it was prefaced by “this is off the record.” These days dissatisfaction with a coach is much more out in the open and thus many coaches are more willing to talk about these instances. Just checking the Times discussion boards or any other such boards demonstrates that. Another example of how life has changed in the cyber-era.



Well it’s that time of the decade again where the North Coast Section sits all its member schools down at a table and everyone reminds themselves how much they don’t get along. Cynical, yes. Out of touch with reality, no. In today’s Times, Chace Bryson explores the new proposals for league configurations. I looked at these changes this morning and suddenly the new hotbed for controversy is the Bay Shore Conference, within whose boundaries I happen to live.

First thing’s first: This is one of the most political processes you’re ever going to see in high school athletics. Why? Because it directly affects the purse strings that govern competitive equity. That’s especially true when it comes to the ACCAL and BSAL. The new alignment puts Kennedy back in the ACCAL with fellow WCCUSD schools De Anza, El Cerrito, Pinole Valley, and Richmond and also adds John Swett and St. Patrick-St. Vincent to the mix. Does anyone actually believe the Eagles are equipped to compete in any sports other than soccer and basketball in this league? No. What this does is lessen the travel costs for the WCCUSD, and that’s what dictated this move.

We have to put this proposal in perspective. Yes, money is a major factor in these talks whereas the new Valley Conference had concerns over competitive balance. The most popular dissenting opinion for these new leagues is that some schools are concerned with the fact that they can’t compete. I’m not indifferent to those opinions and I can tell you watching a blowout night after night is much less fun than seeing a good game. But the bottom line is this: We need to get these kids on the field and on the court. These moves allow teams like Kennedy and Richmond to cut costs and might allow them to establish some consistency in fielding teams. I care less about the ability to compete than the opportunity to compete and, to a large extent, these moves show that the NCS Board of Managers does too.


Water polo its own worst enemy?

Beijing’s 2008 Olympics, the event’s official Web site tells us, will run Aug. 8-24. Olympic water polo will run Aug. 9-23. But will the teams get to the appointed venues at the appointed times?

OK, so we’re being facetious, here. But at the high school level, the sport has problems that have nothing to do with the action in the pool. Postponed matches, changed times, games canceled (or occasionally added) with no notification beyond the team members. Schedules sometimes seem meaningless.

A few years ago, a coach of another sport called high school water polo a "logistical nightmare." He added that if he had been a water polo coach, he would not have lasted half a season.

Admittedly, things have improved since then. But the logistical mish-mash monster reared its ugly head at a school that shall remain nameless when those in charge took it on themselves to start with the varsity matches and follow with the JV instead of following the usual girls-boys pattern of varsity-JV-varsity-JV. Sadly, coverage had been planned in advance, and an opportunity to cover at least one potentially great varsity match was lost.

At its best, water polo is soccer in H2O, blending art with athleticism. Having covered an international match once many years ago, I can say the sport is action-packed and exciting. I’ve seen some good high school matches over the years, as well. But the sport’s logistical problems can drive some of us up a wall and down a creek.



On Wednesday, the State Assembly voted down Bill 2312, which intended to loosen the rules of eligibility for high school athletes who transfer schools without moving. The subject long has been a controversial one in high school athletic circles. One wonders if this will be the catalyst for even more debate on transfers. Do the existing regulations keep the situation under control? Will there be any future legislation proposed, or do you expect the topic to drift away? Please weigh in with your comments.


CalHiSports.com record book

I just got my hands on an amazing resource for prep sports: the sixth edition of CalHiSports.com’s State Record Book & Almanac. Here you can look up practically any state record imaginable, such as most two-point conversions in a season by an individual (14), most yards of total offense in a game (912), most rebounds in a game by an individual (53), most home runs by a team in a season (75).

Curious about who holds these records? There are a limited number of these books on sale at the De La Salle book store. That makes sense since former Spartans star D.J. Williams of the Denver Broncos shares the covers with luminaries as Ted Williams, Marion Jones, Jason Kidd, Lisa Leslie and Tiger Woods. All of these athletes played high school sports in California, and the sheer number of great California athletes is another facet of the book that will amaze you.


The Fresno experience

The De La Salle High School football team’s first play from scrimmage on Saturday night against Clovis West was a 16-yard run by Ryan Nastor.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, it equaled their longest gain of the night.

De La Salle’s offense struggled to move the ball against the Golden Eagles, to say the least. But fans of the Spartans shouldn’t be overly worried. Just look at last year. Kevin Lopina could hardly be described as a prototypical split-back veer option quarterback. But as the season wore on, he reduced his mistakes and was ripping off long runs. So as long as the offensive line improves, De La Salle should get back to being a very good running team.

Speaking of Saturday night, about 5,000 showed up to see the game at immaculate Buchanan High. The stadium itself holds about 10,000 people and the field was perfectly manicured. Kind of lets you know how big a deal high school football is in the Valley.

I’m not sure what I was expecting as far as pre-game festivities at Buchanan High, but the parking lot was practically empty. There was a couple there who had WAY too much food for two people to consume, and there was three other college-age guys pouring beer into plastic cops as to not alert the Clovis po-po. Nice going, fellas.

De La Salle’s loss dropped it from USA Today’s Super 25. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/preps/football/poll/2005-super25.htm

Calhisports.com still had DLS ranked No. 6 in the state. http://calhisports.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=454302



Ready for some water polo?

What a weekend! First, the Sacramento Monarchs earn a trip to the WNBA finals. Then Fresno State puts the hurtin’ on Weber State (Oregon’s next!). As if things couldn’t get better, my trip to Candlestick, er, Monster Park, ends with a 49er win!

But I digress. Back to preps.

Right now, my mind is turning toward water polo, specifically East Bay Athletic League water polo. I’ll be heading out to Danville on Tuesday to see the Monte Vista girls play California in the league-opener. Several things come to mind when thinking about this matchup. Namely, what are the Mustangs going to look like? For years, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing standouts Stephanie Schnugg and Jessica Steffens do their thing in the pool. Translation? Totally dominate. In fact, the last time I saw Monte Vista in action, the squad was celebrating its dramatic victory over EBAL rival San Ramon Valley in the NCS final. (Mark your calendars. Those two teams meet next month)

But what about this season? Schnugg and Steffens are in college. Will the Mustangs be celebrating an NCS three-peat come November? Call me curious (it’s early, I know), but inquiring minds want to know.

To quench your water polo thirst, check out this site