NO MATCH: La Canada High School, helped by Bryce Hopkins, center routed San Marino, 21-6, in a home game on Tuesday. Staff photo by Sarah Reingewirtz
By Keith Lair, SGVN
LA CANADA-FLINTRIDGE – The La Canada High School boys water polo team has gone through half a dozen coaches the past five years.
But the Spartans still manage to flourish. They currently are the top-ranked team in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 and opened Rio Hondo League play with a 21-6 victory over visiting San Marino on Tuesday.
Head coach Devon Borisoff is the secret to the team’s success, said senior Symeon Stefan, one of Spartans’ top players, and assistant coach Kristen Dronberger.
“He sort of has been a constant,” Stefan said. “(The coaching changes) have not been that dramatic. But Devon has been sort of the common thread throughout.”
Ironically, Borisoff was unable to make his league debut after receiving a red card in the Spartans’ previous match. That led to Dronberger coaching the team and getting her first varsity boys victory. She began coaching the Spartans girls team last year.
“It was a lot quieter,” Stefan said. “Usually he’s yelling. He’s been a key to our success this year and it’s kind of odd not having him on deck.”
Even before Tuesday’s game, the Spartans have had coaching issues. Todd Sprague was supposed to be the coach, but he accepted a full-time teaching position in Whittier just before the start of the season.
Borisoff, who helped lead La Canada to the 2007 CIF-SS title and was named player of year, has been an assistant coach for the Spartans for the past three years. Even through three coaching changes, he stepped right in.
“Devon has always been there in the background,” Dronberger said. “It’s perfect that this year Todd Sprague had something wonderful happen to him. It opened it up for Devon to take over.
“He’s been a huge part of this team for such a long time. There is no coach on this planet that knows these kids as well as Devon knows them.
“Devon and I have been both coached by the same coach in our college careers (at USC). We have very similar views of the water from the deck. It’s not too much of a big difference in our styles.”
The Spartans, with or without Borisoff, did not miss a beat on Tuesday. They were leading, 9-2, after the first quarter and 12-4 at halftime. Stefan had a game-high six goals in the game.
“A lot of times we experiment on plays that we do not have the opportunity to work on when we play tougher teams,” Stefan said. “It’s more of a practice opportunity and a great learning experience for everybody. Practice makes perfect.”
The Spartans forced 30 turnovers and had a 7-0 lead before San Marino scored when Derek Yeh hit an outside shot.
“They weren’t mentally ready in the first quarter,” San Marino coach Mark Barr said. “The second and third quarters, we played a lot better. That’s what we’re going to concentrate on, to see if we can do that for 24 minutes.”
Eric Thvedt, who led the Titans with two goals, said his team was scared.
“We can’t go into games being afraid,” he said. “We knew going into this game they are a really good team. We came in here thinking, `Oh my God, we’re going to get killed. We’re going to lose by a lot.’ We can’t do that. We have to go in thinking we’re going to play six people in the water, no matter who they are.”
Barr pointed out that after the 9-2 start, the Spartans outscored the Titans 3-2 in the second quarter and 4-1 in the third quarter, something more to his liking.
“We still have a problem playing a name and not the people in the water,” Barr said. “That’s what we’re working on. That first quarter, it looked like they were playing La Canada. They were scared. They played a lot better in the other two quarters.”
Johnny Louk and Bryce Hopkins each had four goals for the Spartans, with Hopkins scoring three times in the fourth quarter.
“The kids always want to score regardless,” Dronberger said. “We tell them to not let up but to set up. We still want goals, but we want to work on things we choose to work on.”
La Canada will continue its tough nonleague schedule when it plays Mira Costa on Saturday at Pasadena City College.