Sharks girls water polo advances to CIF quarterfinals

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The Malibu High girls water polo squad, champions of the Tri-Valley League, won two matches in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 tournament before being defeated by the Troy Warriors 10-6 on Feb. 10. Photo by Simeon Sturges.

Malibu finished the season with an 22-6 overall record and a 6-0 record in the Tri-Valley League

The Malibu High Sharks girls water polo team advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 Girls Water Polo Championships earlier this month. 

The squad, champions of the Tri-Valley League, won two matches in the postseason tournament before being defeated by the Troy (Fullerton) Warriors 10-6 on Feb. 10. 

Malibu head coach Hayden Goldberg said this year’s Sharks bunch was on par with Malibu’s 2008 and 2010 squads that advanced to the CIF championship game. 

“I don’t think finalist has anything to do with it,” he said. “I think complete team — who we played, what we did — this is the third-best team to ever come out of Malibu.” 

Sharks senior Stevie Sturges called the team’s performance in the playoffs amazing. 

“We were all super excited to compete in CIF,” she said. “I’ve never seen a team so excited to advance in CIF and even more excited to just continue playing together. For us, yeah we would have loved to win CIF, but it was much more that that. We wanted to stay a team as long as we possibly could and have the season last as long as possible, so we could stay together playing the sport we love.” 

Malibu began the playoffs with a 9-4 victory over the South (Torrance) Spartans on Feb. 6. The Sharks defeated the Louisville (Woodland Hills) Royals 10-5 in the second round two days later. Troy, the squad that beat Malibu in the third round, advanced to the championship game on Feb. 17 and were defeated by Chaparral (Temecula).

Sturges said Malibu overcame several obstacles en route to downing the Royals.

“We never let it get to us, and we stayed in the game the whole way through,” she said. “We had a huge offense and even bigger defense. Most importantly, we were supportive of each other throughout the whole game. No moments of negativity with this group throughout the whole season.” 

Malibu finished the season with an 22-6 overall record and a 6-0 record in the Tri-Valley League.

Goldberg described the success Malibu had this year as a fairy tale.

“I was kind of nervous at the beginning of the season because I didn’t know if we were going to have the pieces to be successful,” he said. “But we had the girls. We had the leaders. We had the mentality of playing for Malibu High School, and they brought it this year.”

Malibu started the season with 12-9 victory over Oxnard, a squad with much larger talent pool. 

“I realized I had 13 girls that were better than any girls program with 28,” Goldberg said.

The Sharks also defeated Calabasas and Thousand Oaks — two teams led by coaches who coach many of the Sharks in club water polo — twice this season. 

The Sharks were an impressive mesh of water polo knowledge, talent, and moxie, noted Goldberg. 

“The wins we had, I take no credit for that at all,” he said. “It was the girls. They did the work. They played the games. They did everything themselves. I was just part of the ride with them. It was a great season.” 

Sturges will cherish this season forever. 

“Getting to know every individual in and out of the pool was such a privilege,” she said. “This was a team of fighters for sure. I had no expectations and we went practice by practice, game by game. Once we got there, and we got the league title I wasn’t surprised. I knew how powerful this group was.”