Boys’ Water Polo Makes Bulldog History as League Champions and CIF Runner-up


Courtesy of Grant Kramer

Utility player and sophomore Ryder Tonkovich prepares to score in a league game against Northwood. The majority of varsity players such as goalie and team captain Grant Kramer are seniors, which motivates the team to work harder. “My mindset is that because I’m a senior, it could be any game or any practice could be our last practice,” Kramer said. “Because if you lose, you’re done.” (Photo Courtesy of Grant Kramer)

A barrage of synchronized arms glide through the water as they kick up a wake of bubbles. An arm waits, cocked and loaded, wrestling a player on the right and preparing for the perfect opening. Blur. Splash. Score!

This is boys’ water polo: first in Pacific Coast League and CIF Division 3 runner-up in 2022. 

The Bulldogs were seeded second prior to the league tournament at Sage Hill High, with head boys’ water polo coach Kate Avery citing the character of the team as crucial to their achievements. 

“They really value success, and that’s good as a coach because they’re competitive,” Avery said. “You don’t always get that as a coach, that drive to win. Throughout, they have maintained that — working hard for a really long time. They’re tired, and they’re exhausted, but that doesn’t stop them from showing up every day.”

The Bulldogs implemented new strategies and techniques to keep teams they already faced disoriented and unprepared, according to sophomore and utility player Maxwell Minasyan. 

“We had a unique play calling system where some of our players would have different code names and colors,” Minasyan said. “It really helped us win in disguise.” 

With their unrelenting defense and new call signals, the Bulldogs crushed their competition, winning every league game except for the match against Irvine High on Oct. 6, according to senior and captain Grant Kramer. 

“We’ve improved so much on the varsity team because we took in so many new people who are able to grow and improve their skills,” Kramer said. “It used to be that every single league game, we would lose — we only won our first league game, I think two years ago. And now we’re league champions.”

The Bulldogs maintained a consistent lead through PCL with skill and tenacity, taking their momentum through CIF and winning every game except for a tough final against Damien High. 

Their success was built upon years of teamwork and trust — many of the varsity players such as Kramer were returning seniors who spent years playing as a Bulldog. 

“I just want our team to continue being good, because we’re losing a lot of seniors — this year our entire starting lineup are seniors,” Kramer said. “A lot of our utility players like our subs are also seniors. And that could have the potential to impact our team negatively.”

From PCL champions to CIF finalists, this season was a year of many firsts for boys’ water polo. 

“We got a league title. We’ve never gotten a league title before in the history of our program,” Avery said. “So I just want to keep making history with them.”