Girls water polo reaching for another championship

Only two seasons removed from a California Interscholastic Federation championship game appearance and with six league championships in school history and counting, the Malibu High School girls water polo team is diving into its 2012-13 campaign with high expectations in the pool.

Meredith Butte, the Sharks’ second year head coach, said grabbing the league title is important.

“We’ve held that Tri-Valley League title for quite a while now,” she said. “It’s an important goal for the girls. It is a good tradition to always be hungry for that win, but it is also important to better ourselves each week during the season and try to work on things we are not so strong at, so when we get to the league championship we will be at our best.”

Senior Sharks’ player Jenny Hill-Carta, 17, said she expects another championship.

“I’m expecting us to win league, and work together toward that goal,” she said. “I’m really excited for this season. I’m hoping to get the league title and move as far as we can in CIF.”

Last season the Lady Sharks shared the Tri-Valley League championship with Carpinteria High School, who gave the Malibu girls their lone conference loss. It was their sixth conference title since 2005.

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The season before, the Sharks advanced to the CIF Championship game where they fell to Warren High School.

Butte said the building blocks are in place for the Sharks to swim toward a seventh consecutive title next February.

“They are dedicated and very tenacious and extremely aggressive,” she said.

In order to secure the championship this year to advance to the CIF playoffs, the Sharks will have to have a winning record against their five Tri-Valley League opponents— Carpinteria, Cate, Nordhoff, Oaks Christian and Villanova Prep. Their first league game is December 19 versus Cate.

After opening the season at home on Tuesday against Oxnard High School, the Sharks will hit the pool this weekend for five games in two days at the Mistletoe Tournament at Newbury Park High School. Butte says the tournament should provide a stiff challenge, but both this weekend and throughout the season she is expecting her quartet of seniors on the team— Hill-Carta, Leah Hamilton, Linda Brown, and Rae Jackson—to lead the Sharks through any tough times they may have.

“I expect leadership from them and doing by example,” said Butte, who led the Sharks to a 3-2 record in the 24-team tournament last season. “The young girls are always watching. They need to show dedication and heart.”

No matter what an opponent throws at the water polo team this season, nothing will compare to the Sharks’ “Hell Week,” which they underwent from November 12 to 16. The week featured grueling two-a-day practices from 5:45 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with school sandwiched in between.

Hill-Carta, who plays set, described the practices as “brutal.”

“It takes a lot of mental fortitude because you have to get up in the morning, your body is tired,” she said. “A lot of the sports don’t have to do that, so when you go through the week you are at your lowest point. Either you come together or separate because we are all going through the same thing. We pulled together.”

Brown, 17, a sprinter and driver for the Sharks, said no other sports teams at Malibu High go through what the “Hell Week” does for the team.

“You can see the people who are more motivated,” she said. “You can see the people who will push themselves for you.”

Brown said since she has three Tri-Valley championships under her belt, a fourth is a must.

“It’s a big tradition,” she said. “It is something we are proud of and want to try for every year.”

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