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Royal Flush With Experience and Expectations


The Royal High water polo team overlooked and underrated?

Not this season.

Coach Steve Snyder and the Highlanders were offended by their exclusion from local media polls a year ago and took it out on the competition. All the way to the Southern Section Division IV final.

That's a motivation and luxury Royal can't count on this season.

With five starters returning from a team that gave Righetti all it could handle in the title game last year, Royal will wear the bull's-eye.

Snyder, who last led the Highlanders to a section title in 1995, expects as much, especially after watching his players improve their strength and speed in the off-season.

Snyder encouraged his players to hit the weights and "buy into the swimming" program in the spring.

They did both, with stellar results.

Buoyed by a large contingent of water polo players, Royal won its first Marmonte League boys' swimming title since 1982.

And their winning ways carried over into a successful summer.

Leading scorer Derek Anderson has graduated, but the core of the team returns.

The most notable returner is senior Tom Onyshko, arguably the best goalie in the region.

Onyshko, the league's co-most valuable player last season, set school records with 390 saves and 686 career saves. But there is more to his game than stopping shots.

Onyshko had 57 assists last year.

Replacing two-meter man Anderson and his 130 goals will be tough for Royal, but Snyder has a plan.

Seniors Romiro Saldain, Justin McClure, Chris Andelin and Sean Carnahan, all capable two-meter players, will have ample scoring opportunities.

"We're going to run some offenses that are going to use a variety of those guys," Snyder said.

Other teams to watch:

* Harvard-Westlake: Unlike Royal last year, the Wolverines want to be overlooked and underrated.

"Oh, yeah, we're not very good this year," said Coach Rich Corso, tongue firmly in cheek.

Although Harvard-Westlake lost five starters who are playing in college, expectations are again high for the Wolverines.

Only returners James Bloomingdale and Marty Matthies saw significant playing time for the Division I semifinalists last season, but there is plenty of supporting talent.

"It's an impact team without an impact player," Corso said. "When you put all of our guys together, we're pretty good."

Harvard-Westlake went on a barnstorming 17-day, 29-game European summer tour and performed well against several national youth teams.

* Crescenta Valley: The Falcons will miss graduated all-region player Carlos Pelayo, but first-year Coach Jan Akonju isn't complaining.

"We're actually better than last year," said Akonju, a Falcon assistant the last three seasons.

Seniors Jeff Little, Mike Hoy, Travis Schmidt and Daniel Besedick are returning starters from a team that finished 25-3 and advanced to the Division III final.

Little was the team's second-leading scorer last season with 91 goals.

Hoy proved himself among the region's elite goalies with 296 saves.

* La Canada: The defending Division III champions have a distinctly different look. There are no returning starters from the 26-3 team, but eight lettermen are back.

"This group is just like the group of seniors last year," Coach Larry Naeve said. "The juniors have all played together since the seventh grade.

"In the off-season they played more than 100 games, so they've done their homework to get ready."

Phil Webster and Josef Ondrejcka combined for seven goals in the Spartans' 12-11 victory over Riverside Arlington in an opener on Tuesday. Four others also scored.

Goalies Rob Low, Chase McDay and Daniel Brady will attempt to fill the void created by the graduation of Lloyd Masson, the 1999 Division III player of the year.

* Agoura: All-Southern Section goalie Justin Rosa and leading scorer Hans Larsen have graduated, but senior Matt Monaco is around to spark the Chargers.

Monaco, along with returning starters Donovan Tatum and Paul Stuart, should keep Agoura in the Marmonte League race, nipping at the heels of favored Royal.

"I feel like we're still a good team and we have a chance to make a good run through the playoffs," Coach Jason Rosenthal said.

Agoura has been eliminated by Ventura in the semifinals and quarterfinals of the Division IV playoffs the last two seasons.



* THE PROVEN: David Miller of Ventura is a third-year starter and among the elite goalies in the region. . . Crespi has five starters returning from a team which finished third in the competitive Mission League. The Celts are 5-0 with seniors Danny Behrens and Hernan Golbert leading the way. . . Burroughs is in a rebuilding year with a junior-laden squad. Vartan Bagdasaryan and Dro Hovanessian are returning starters from a team that lost to Division III finalist Crescenta Valley by a goal in the quarterfinals. . . Seniors Jean-Luc Renault and Chris Austin return at Thousand Oaks. . . Nordhoff will rely on returning starters Spencer Ford and Peter Hickok to improve on a .500 season.

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