Sharks water polo wins league title

Senior Sean Merrick lines up one of his three goals of the game. Photos by Seth and Sam Rubinroit

For the past three seasons, Oaks Christian has defeated Malibu High to win the Tri-Valley League title. This time, the Sharks got their revenge.

By Seth Rubinroit / Sports Staff Writer

The Malibu High School boys water polo team defeated rival Oaks Christian at home last Thursday, 11-7. The win clinched the Tri-Valley League title for the Sharks.

The Sharks (25-1) were led by seniors Jake Philbrick, Alex Greenberg and Sean Merrick, who each scored three goals, and the stellar goaltending of fellow senior Michael Galate. Carter Baldwin and Jacob Vandor each had a goal in the victory.

After the game, the Sharks celebrated by throwing their head coach, Mike Mulligan, into the pool.

“I have been waiting to do that forever,” senior Carter Baldwin said. “It was fun.”

The experienced Sharks, who start seven returning seniors, are in a position to go far in the upcoming playoffs. The Boys Water Polo Coaches Poll has the Sharks ranked first in Division IV of the CIF Southern Section. The biggest challenge for Malibu will likely be from Arroyo Grande, the second-ranked team in Division IV and the only squad with a win against the Sharks this season. Going into the playoffs, the Sharks’ players and coaches cited the offensive sets, playing in high-pressured situations and limiting the number of penalties as areas in which the team needs to improve.

The victory against Oaks Christian was particularly meaningful for the Sharks because of the rivalry between the two schools. For the past three seasons, the Lions have defeated Malibu to win the league title. Sharks players admitted after the game that they wanted revenge for last season, when the Lions defeated them in an epic 11-9 overtime game to secure the league title.

“It was awesome,” Vandor said. “For three years, we have wanted to beat them, and we finally did.”

On Oct. 15, the Sharks made a statement by blowing out the Lions, 18-3, at Oaks Christian, with seven goals from Merrick and five from Vandor. In last week’s game, the Lions made adjustments that allowed them to keep the contest closer.

“The first time we played, the [Lions] were at the beach the whole day before the game,” Mulligan said. “This time, they had a new defense where they dropped back on us, which eliminated our looks from two meters out.”

The Sharks’ next game is a non-league contest against Santa Monica at home this week on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. The postseason schedule has not been announced.