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BOYS' WATER POLO

Woodbridge to Take Time With Rebuilding Project

September 12, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

The Woodbridge water polo team held its first practice in nearly two years last night at University High. It's the beginning of what Coach Matt Campbell says is going to be a long, slow process in attempting to build a program that has fluctuated in and out of existence the past few years.

Without the benefit of an on-campus pool, the Warriors were always struggling to keep their program afloat. After the 1998 season they called it quits because of lack of participation.

"It's a big problem getting kids to come out when there isn't a pool on campus," Campbell said. "Kids aren't interested in having to bus to and from practices. And it's hard to get a good coach without a facility."

The city of Irvine is aware of the lack of aquatic facilities for its four public schools, and a study is in progress to assess the feasibility of building pools on both the Woodbridge and Northwood campuses.

University is the district's only school with a pool on campus. Irvine, Woodbridge and Northwood have had to battle for time at Heritage Aquatics Complex, which is located next to Irvine High and is already overcrowded.

"I can't think of any school district with four schools that has only two pools," said Campbell, a counselor at Woodbridge for six years. "The city has outgrown Heritage. It's in use from dawn to dusk and there is just no more room."

Campbell hopes the new facilities will be approved in three to four months and Woodbridge will have a pool within 18 months. That's the main reason Campbell, the coach at University from 1982-89, and an assistant to Ted Newland at UC Irvine from '90-93, decided to take the Woodbridge job.

"It would be too expensive for Heritage to be rebuilt," he said. "So it looks very positive that we will get our own pool. That's what piqued my interest. The incentive was water. With that possibility the athletic director [Alan Dugard] and I agreed that we needed to start a program now and build for the future."

Campbell knows it's going to take a while to assemble a competitive team. The decision to reinstate the program came so late in the year that Campbell, who was given the job only two weeks ago, had no summer program. And while most teams already have one or two games under their belts, the Warriors have had only one practice.

"We are already three weeks behind everyone else," Campbell said. "It's not unlike being at a new school. I'd put us a few years behind Northwood. We are going to take it slow and we have no illusions of greatness. We are more interested in developing the program, and that may take three to four years."

While Campbell plans on sticking around until the Warriors establish their program, once that is accomplished, he says he will relinquish the coaching reins. He left coaching in 1993 so he could help raise his family. Now, the former water polo player wants to make sure that when his children reach high school, there will be strong polo programs in place.

"We are starting from scratch, which is nice because I can do it my way," he said. "I'm doing this for the challenge, to get the program off the ground and get it going and then, hopefully, with a new facility, we'll be ready to attract kids and coaches."

LOOKING AHEAD

Several of the county's best teams will meet this week in some intriguing nonleague games.

Today, top-ranked Newport Harbor plays Long Beach Wilson, the Southern Section Division I defending champion, at 5:30 p.m. at Belmont Plaza. Also today, fifth-ranked Foothill plays at sixth-ranked El Toro at 5 p.m., and ninth-ranked La Habra, coming off a 9-8 victory over No. 10 Los Alamitos, plays a 4 p.m. game at seventh-ranked Laguna Beach, which squeezed out a 5-4 victory over Esperanza on Friday.

Possibly the best match of the week will be Thursday, when second-ranked San Clemente plays at third-ranked Villa Park.

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If you have an item or idea for the water polo report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail us at melanie.neff@latimes.com

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