Some past members of Malibu High Sharks girls water polo teams had butterflies in their bellies before they dove in the pool at the high school on Nov. 26 to play in the water polo program’s annual alumni game.
Since butterflies don’t swim all those nerves washed away as soon as the match began.
“I did remember more things about how to play when I was in the water,” said Christine Karaghossian, a 2014 graduate.
The women passed the ball deftly around the water, cheered each other on, and led by Sophia Galate, who led the Sharks to the CIF title game in 2011, and Alex Mora, a top scorer for the Sharks before winning a CIF title at Oaks Christian her senior year in 2019, rang up enough goals to defeat a group composed of girls from the 2021 and 2022 Sharks water polo teams, 11-7.
Galate has participated in four alumni contests since moving back to Malibu from Chicago in 2016. She enjoys the experience.
“I love water polo,” Galate said. “I loved playing water polo in high school. When I was in Chicago, I played in summer leagues there. It is such a fun sport to play and be back here.”
The girls alumni team weren’t the only former water polo players to win. A group of boys alumni downed the current boys squad 15-14 after the girls’ match.
Sharks boys and girls teams head coach Hayden Goldberg, himself a Sharks alumnus, told the boys team throughout their fall season to be ready for the alumni contest.
“The alumni come to bring it,” he said. “Today, we had five NCAA [Division] 1 players playing against our high school boys. They are playing hard. They want to show they are still the big dogs in Malibu.”
Mike Mulligan, an assistant to Goldberg and the former Sharks head coach, began the alumni contests in 1998 — two years after Malibu High’s first class graduated — to give former players an opportunity to compete with their friends and teammates again.
For many years, the yearly event was held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but in three of the past four years, it was canceled. The event wasn’t held in 2018 because of the Woolsey Fire, and it was put on hiatus 2020 because of the pandemic. Power outages stopped the alumni spectacle last November.
The boys alumni defeated the high school boys team 23-10 in 2019.
Everyone was happy to see each other this year. The players that graduated high school in 1996 and years after bearhugged and high-fived each other before donning Sharks water polo caps and uniforms. The players’ families reminisced with each other and Goldberg and Mulligan.
Mulligan refereed the contests, while Goldberg coached the younger squads. Sharks players manned the game clock and scoreboard.
Mulligan called the day a family reunion.
“It is so cool to see so many alums come back and participate in this and hear about what they are doing in their adult lives,” he said. “I never thought it would be this big and we would have kids coming back that were part of the first graduating class at Malibu.”
The girls alumni team had a 4-3 lead when Mora showed her scoring prowess. Facing the left side of the goal, she skipped the ball off the water, past the goalkeeper and into the back of the goal to give the alumni a two-goal lead. They led 7-4 at halftime.
Mora and Galate scored all of the goals for their team. The trend continued in the second half.
Mora scored again at the beginning of the third quarter, then again to put the alumni up 9-5.
The younger Sharks scored at the beginning of the fourth quarter to get within three points. They scored one more time before the end of the game as the alumni tossed in two more scores to solidify the four-point win.
The boys alumni led 4-2 in the second quarter when a member of their bunch nailed a scoring throw for their fifth point. In response, Mulligan jokingly yelled, “Hey, you have been practicing!”
The alumni were up 7-4 at halftime. The group was led by Hans Cole, a 2015 CIF champion as a Shark, who played college water polo at Cal Lutheran. The elders were up 11-8 at the end of the third quarter.
They led 13-9 when Cole had the ball in front of the current Sharks team’s goal. He spun around once in the water, then again (and maybe a third time) to maneuver around the goalkeeper and tap the ball against the blue tarp in back of the goal.
The younger Sharks scored two goals, but the former Sharks scored again to take a 15-11 lead. The current team rang up three straight scores including one at the final buzzer to finish the match within one point of the past players.
Brett Sanson, a 1997 graduate, has played in 10 alumni games. He credited Mulligan for it being a great Sharks reunion.
“It’s fun to see some old faces,” he said. “It’s an amazing community that brings people back together. It is amazing to be part of.”
Karaghossian loves Malibu’s water polo family.
“We have known a lot of these people our whole lives,” she said. “It is a great seeing them again.”