If a member of Malibu High’s girls water polo squad erred in a game last season, Sharks coach Hayden Goldberg said the player may then have lost focus and gotten down on herself because of the turnover or missed shot.
Not this season, though, the lead Shark said. Goldberg said the team has “grown up” from a 2015-16 campaign that ended with Malibu one victory away from competing in the CIF Division VII title game.
“They are upset with themselves for a second and then they wash it away,” the coach said. “They make a mistake and learn from it, so they are excelling.”
Player Annie Armitage said the growth Malibu (7-4) has experienced is evident in some of the wins the Sharks have had this season, mainly the Nov. 20, 15-10 win over Oxnard. The Yellow Jackets have beating Malibu handily the past few years.
“That win showed such a growth from previous years,” Armitage said. “It showed we have improved a lot as a team.”
Goldberg said knocking off the Yellow Jackets was great.
“The girls remembered last year and beat them in a tight game,” he said. “Oxnard is from a higher division, but the team that we had that day was better than them.”
Malibu’s other victories have been over Palisades, Camarillo, Notre Dame, Louisville, Marymount and Moorpark. The Sharks fell to Agoura, Oaks Christian, Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park.
The schedule hasn’t been a cakewalk for the team. Goldberg wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“We have been forced to play at a higher level,” he said. “We have to learn from any bumps. Last year, we had a lot of blowout wins because I don’t think the competition was as solid.”
Goldberg said the Sharks entered the season ready to dominate in the water. He said Armitage, Sophie Spivack, Gaia Hinds, Zoe Detweiler, and Alex Mora have led the Sharks.
“We’ve had four or five different girls be game MVPs this season,” Goldberg said. “The girls motivate each other. They want to see everyone get better.”
The former water polo player added that Mora and Hinds have led the Sharks offensively and Spivack on defense.
Spivack said the Sharks started the season playing at a high level.
“We picked up where we left off last year — making it to the semifinals of CIF,” the 11th-grader said.
The Sharks, ranked fifth in the CIF’s Division V rankings, next play on Jan. 11 against Beverly Hills. Malibu begins competing in its four-team conference, the Tri-Valley League, afterward.
Malibu’s league opponents are Nordhoff, Carpinteria and Foothill Tech. Foothill Tech is the defending league champion.
Malibu plays the Dragons this month and again in February. Armitage said the Sharks are confident they can knock off the champs.
“I know they still have strong players, but based off the wins we have had so far — like against Oxnard — I think we have a strong chance against them,” she said. “It will be a really good game to watch.”
After the league-play is the postseason.
Armitage said Malibu is expecting to do better than last season’s 20-8 campaign.
“What can we do this year, since we made it that far last year?” the 17-year-old said. “We have a real chance to make it to the finals.”
Spivack said a key to Malibu’s success is how close they are as a team.
“We know what each girl can do and what each girl is capable of,” she said. “We are dialed in as a team.”
Goldberg said the Sharks are prepared for any opponent.
“We are ready to go,” he said.