The Malibu High Sharks boys water polo team ended its regular season last week as Tri-Valley League champions for the second consecutive season.
“It feels great winning the league title my senior year,” said Sharks leading scorer Eros Brunel, a high school water polo player of four years.
Hayden Goldberg, the team’s head coach, said Malibu worked hard all season.
“It paid off in the end,” he said.
Goldberg added that Sharks players overcame a injuries and flu bugs during their campaign.
“When it came down to game time and play time — we were ready to go,” he recalled.
Malibu went undefeated in the league and qualified for the playoffs.
The group hosted the Fountain Valley Broncos on Tuesday in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section 2022 Division IV Boys Water Polo Championships.
Malibu closed the regular season and cemented its league championship with a 16-4 win over Villanova at the Malibu High pool on Oct. 25.
The 13-member Sharks celebrated the league title after the game by locking arms with each other and Goldberg, himself a former Malibu player, and jumping in the pool. The bunch splashed water around and then huddled together in the water. After Goldberg counted down from three, the group yelled “Team!” to the cheers of their supporters.
Additionally, Brunel, Dylan McGuirk, and Kade Kelly, the Sharks’ seniors, were honored in recognition of the team’s senior night.
Brunel, 17, said water polo brought the three together.
“We had a lot of fun this season,” Brunel said, adding how he, Kelly, and McGuirk would sit together on bus when traveling to away games and joke around.
Goldberg, who also coaches youth water polo, has coached the trio of teenagers since they were preteens, so honoring them was momentous.
“I’ve watched them grow from boys to young men,” Goldberg said. “It’s been humbling for me because I realize how fast time is going. These guys stepped up their senior year and have been great leaders for the team. They have led by example in the water and out of the water, which is a huge thing for me.”
Malibu began the season with a loss to Camarillo, a non-league opponent. Brunel said in that contest he and his teammates didn’t share the ball well, but in following matches they made a point to pass the ball around the pool before shooting.
“After a couple of games we became great at it,” he said. “We got better at finding one another.”
Malibu shared the league championship with Foothill Tech in 2021. This season, Goldberg said, the Sharks were focused on being the sole squad atop the Tri-Valley League.
Malibu beat Foothill Tech 12-10 in their first match. The Sharks downed their rival 9-8 in the teams’ second matchup.
“Because of this league title, the juniors are already talking about what they want to do next year,” Goldberg noted.
First come the playoffs, though.
A Sharks water polo team last won a CIF championship in 2014. Malibu teams were championship runners-up in 2008, 2010, and 2013.
Brunel said this season’s Sharks team is good enough to make some noise in the postseason.
“I think we can get far into CIF,” he said. “It hasn’t happened awhile for Malibu High School. I want to break that.”
Goldberg said Malibu has to play their style of water polo to be successful.
The winner of the Malibu vs. Fountain Valley match will play Crean Lutheran, which had a first-round bye, in the championships’ second round on Thursday. The winner of that contest will advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday. The tournament’s semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 9, and the title game is set for Nov. 12.
Brunel is proud of his team.
“Everyone stepped up,” he said. “Everyone made progress this season. In the end, we all played a part in winning the league title.”