Goldberg Continues Tradition of Excellence

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MHS Water Polo

Water polo coach Hayden Goldberg’s first big decision in his new coaching role happened before his team dived into the season. 

The Malibu High Sharks boys water polo head coach moved standout goalkeeper Harry Lang from protecting the net to an offensive position for the squad’s 2018 campaign. 

Goldberg, a Malibu assistant coach for more than a decade, made the gamble after Lang, the team’s captain, asked him about playing a position in the field for part of this season. 

“I have watched him play in the field in club matches, and he was very good,” Goldberg said. “I wanted to have offense on both sides of the pool and someone to quarterback the team. Harry being left handed is a big thing because he is passing to everyone [who] is right handed.” 

Lang’s position switch has paid off. Goldberg called the 2017 All-Tri-Valley League player the MVP of Malibu’s first game. Lang’s passing and scoring have helped the Sharks compose a winning record. His replacement at goalie, junior Chris Rucker-Jensen, has made scoring difficult for Malibu’s opponents. 

Lang, playing in the field fulltime, enjoys being on offense. The 12th grader said Rucker-Jensen’s strong play in the cage has made the change smooth. 

“He is a great goalie,” Lang said of Rucker-Jensen. “He has the intensity. He has the size. He has the heart.” 

Goldberg said Rucker-Jensen has defended the goal successfully against talented opponents who rifle the ball his way, looking to score.

“Chris has locked down the cage,” Goldberg said.

Rucker-Jensen said the move has been beneficial for him and Lang. 

“I am really happy that I got this opportunity,” said the first-year varsity player. 

Longtime Malibu coach Mike Mulligan decided to hand the head coaching reigns to Goldberg, a former Sharks player, at the end of last season. The coach said the new head coach’s water polo acumen has improved every year. 

“Hayden will and is doing a great job,” Mulligan said. “He has tons of energy and great ideas to continue the great tradition of Malibu water polo, and more importantly to improve on it.”

Goldberg, a former Malibu water polo player, was shocked by the request, but said he was honored because he has always wanted to be the water polo team’s head coach.

“I really took that to heart, so the entire summer I worked my butt off to make sure every practice was written down and to have a good plan of attack to show I could be a head coach on the boys side,” said Goldberg, Malibu’s girls water polo head coach since 2012. “It is a very big honor.” 

Mulligan has stepped into two of Goldberg’s former roles: coaching the junior varsity boys water polo team and serving as the varsity team’s assistant coach. Goldberg, the 2016 girls water polo Tri-Valley League Coach of the Year, will still be the head coach of the girls water polo team. 

Lang said since Goldberg has coached him and many of his teammates since they were 12-year-olds, the coaching change wasn’t a big deal. 

“We are used to his style of coaching in games and practice,” Lang said.

The Sharks are continuing their winning ways with Goldberg at the helm. At press time, the team had a 9-2 record.

Malibu defeated Cleveland, Thousand Oaks, Palisades and Newbury Park en route to claiming the top spot at the Sept. 7-8 Conejo Classic Tournament.

Goldberg said the Sharks gelled during the event. 

“We blew through everyone there,” he said. “We just looked like we were unstoppable.” 

Rucker-Jensen said his best performance of the season was in the Sharks’ 15-7 win over Newbury Park in the tournament’s championship game.  

“A bunch of those kids played on the same club team as me, so when we went against them I just went off,” he said. “I was blocking everybody on that team.” 

Malibu went 3-1 in the 18th annual Malibu Varsity Boys Tournament on Sept. 13-15. Goldberg said his squad was missing some key players, but still performed well in the showcase. 

The coach and some of his players were miffed about the group’s 13-8 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 20. Goldberg said the loss to a team they could face in the CIF Division 3 playoffs was humbling. 

The Sharks were down early on, staged a comeback, then fell behind for good. Goldberg said it took some time for Malibu to adjust to how officials were refereeing the match. He said the Sharks really beat themselves.  

“I don’t know if we just went in there overconfident,” he said. 

“It’s someone we will probably see in the playoffs so it is very frustrating,” Lang added. 

Goldberg questioned himself about coaching decisions he made during the contest. He tapped Mulligan for advice on a late game timeout and asked if anything could have been done differently. 

“I’m very fortunate to be able to look over to someone who is still my head coach no matter what my title,” he said.

Malibu hosted Foothill Tech on Tuesday. The Sharks play at Rio Mesa High at 3:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28. Malibu plays at Cate on Oct. 2 at 3:15 p.m.

Rucker-Jensen said he sees the team moving in positive direction the rest of the season. 

“Later in the season we are going to be an outstanding team,” he said. “Right now, we are doing pretty well, but as the season progresses we are going to click as a team.” 

Lang said the group is composed of a lot of talented players. 

“Last season’s team—we relied on a couple of guys too much,” Lang said. “This season, we are well rounded. We can beat good teams because we are good. Not because just a couple of players are good.” 

Lang’s head coach said Malibu is a special team that can win the Tri-Valley League and propel beyond the opening round of the CIF playoffs, which Malibu has advanced beyond in a few seasons.

“We have been put in a very difficult division, we’ve made it to CIF, but it just stops right there,” Goldberg said. “It hurts because we have been used to getting out of the first round. I think we can get out of the first round.” 

Lang said the Sharks want to make a run in the CIF playoffs. 

“We are all care so much because this program has raised us,” he said. “I want to give back as much as I can, and meeting and even going past expectations set for the season is the perfect way to do that.”