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VALLEY REGION WATER POLO ALL-STARS : PLAYER OF THE YEAR / BILL BRUININGA : Watershed Season

December 17, 1995|PETER YOON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If chemistry is the key to winning, then the Royal High water polo team must be all wet.

En route to finishing the season 26-4, winning their 15th consecutive Marmonte League championship and the Southern Section Division IV championship, the Highlanders bonded together like H2and O.

And according to Royal Coach Steve Snyder, the master chemist creating the bond was Bill Bruininga, a senior co-captain.

"Team chemistry was the key to our season," Snyder said. "[Bruininga] was the driving force in keeping everyone together. He assumed a leadership role. He helped to blend the team chemistry."

Strong leadership out of the pool may have been the key, but the team still needed to perform in the pool.

Bruininga led that mission as well.

He scored 104 goals to lead a Highlander team that featured four players with 50 or more goals.

He was third on the team in both assists (41) and steals (58) and, according to Snyder, led the team in intangibles.

"Without him on the team we would have gone an entirely different direction," Snyder said. "He had the whole package. He was the key piece to our puzzle."

Although he led the team in scoring, Bruininga insists togetherness was the key to the Highlanders' success.

"Teamwork was the difference," he said. "Nobody was greedy."

Bruininga knew when to step up.

In the Division IV semifinal against Santa Barbara he scored twice and made a key steal in the final 33 seconds of an 11-9 victory.

He had two goals and four steals in the Highlanders' 11-8 victory over San Marcos in the section final.

"Sometimes you can't just wait for something to happen," Bruininga said. "You have got to make it happen."

UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine and Long Beach State head his list of colleges.

Wherever Bruininga decides to go to college, he wants to work toward a sports medicine career.

He is not sure about a major, but has an idea in mind.

"It's probably going to be chemistry," he said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

FIRST TEAM

J.J. ARDEN

Harvard-Westlake

6-3

170

Senior

* Mission League co-MVP led Wolverines to fourth consecutive undefeated league season and a Division I quarterfinal berth.

JOEY BENNETT

Crescenta Valley

5-9

150

Senior

* Pacific League co-MVP led team with 99 goals as Falcons advanced to Division III quarterfinals. Set school career record with 289 goals.

MIKE DENNY

Burroughs

5-7

125

Senior

* All-Division III goalie had 361 saves for 19-7 Burroughs' team. Allowed only 169 goals and held opponents to one goal three times.

KRIS KUNKEL

Royal

5-7

185

Senior

* Defensive specialist led the Highlanders in steals (134) and assists (84). Also scored 57 goals for Division IV champions.

CURTIS TOLMIE

Buena

6-0

175

Senior

* All-Division IV goalie had 413 saves, leading team to a 15-11 record and a berth in division quarterfinals.

ALFONSO TUCAY

Burroughs

6-4

235

Junior

* Led the Indians in goals (115) and assists (68) as team advanced to Division III semifinals in school's first playoff appearance.

ALBERT WON

Harvard-Westlake

5-11

190

Senior

* All-Southern Section Division I selection and Mission League co-MVP. Plays for U.S. Junior National team with Arden.

SECOND TEAM'

* Jon Conrad, Crescenta Valley, Sr., Pacific League co-MVP and All-Division III pick. Had 92 goals and 153 steals.

* John Engel, Buena, Sr., All-Channel League selection scored 43 goals and had 80 steals.

* Kyle Finley, Royal, Sr., All-Division IV goalie had 314 saves for division champions.

* Brendan Naeve, La Canada, Soph., All-Rio Hondo League pick with 84 goals and 134 assists.

* Paul Prins, Newbury Park, Sr., Team MVP for 10th-ranked Division IV Panthers.

* Rick Rauth, Harvard-Westlake, Sr., All-Mission League selection also excels in volleyball.

* Chris Richeson, Royal, Jr., All-Division IV selection was second on team with 93 goals.

* Jason Smither, Agoura, Sr., All-Marmonte League selection scored 90 goals.

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