The coronavirus pandemic caused the delay and cancelation of sporting schedules of athletes across the globe when it began 20 months ago, including in Malibu.
Colin Murphy, a water polo player since the sixth grade, lost his entire senior season with the Malibu High School (MHS) Sharks boys’ water polo team to pandemic closures. He called life without water polo “different.”
“I was just focused on other things—academics, what I was going to do next four years of college and whatever was ahead of me,” said Murphy, who graduated last spring. “Water polo—it’s all I love. I used to play club water polo. It’s all I did in high school.”
On Saturday, though, Murphy, a college student and lifeguard, will dive in the pool at MHS once again. The former utility player won’t be the only past Shark to do so.
Several former Malibu water polo players are expected to participate in the Sharks’ alumni game at 1 p.m.
“This will be my first time in the pool for a game in a while now,” Murphy said.
For many years, the annual match has been scheduled to be held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but in two of the past three years, it was canceled. The event wasn’t held in 2018 because of the Woolsey Fire, and it was put on hiatus last year because of the pandemic.
A group of Sharks alumni defeated Malibu’s 2019 squad, 23-10, two years ago in the alumni game.
Malibu boys’ water polo coach Hayden Goldberg expects Saturday to be an emotional day.
“The alumni game is like a family reunion,” he said. “The community gets together, from years past to present, to relive the glory days. With missing last year due to the pandemic, I think it will be extra special to see all our alumni and families from years past.”
Malibu High’s history in water polo is full of wins, league championships, postseason qualifications, and a 2014 CIF Southern Section title. Mike Mulligan, now the Sharks girls’ water polo team’s coach, started the boys’ team as a club program in the fall of 1990. The program became officially affiliated with the high school two years later.
In celebration of the program’s 25th anniversary, in 2016, members of the school’s first water polo team participated in the alumni match. Three of them were inducted to the water polo team’s hall of fame.
Goldberg, himself a former Sharks water polo player, said people affiliated with Malibu water polo are excited about the upcoming alumni event.
“Once the word was out, the entire community was buzzing,” he said.
At press time, Goldberg wasn’t sure if the alumni would square off with Malibu’s current team like previous alumni games. He expects the former Sharks to be ready to play.
“The alumni come back determined to make a statement and show the high school team what have learned in college or in their career,” Goldberg said. “All the talking that goes on in the water is way more important though. Its alumni spreading their knowledge to high schoolers.”
Murphy wants to return and play in the alumni match each year.
“I’m looking forward to being in the pool with some friends I should have been playing with my senior year, but also playing against the younger kids and having some fun with them,” he said.