Agoura High School boys Varsity water polo team the Royal Highlanders 13-3 Saturday afternoon to take home unprecedented, back-to-back CIF championship titles - a first in the school's history and an accomplishment certain to fast-track the team into upper Division status.
The championship game played at Irvine's William Woolett Aquatics Center was attended by a passionate crowd of supporters–students, school personnel, lower level athletes, members of the girl's team, Agoura Hills residents, and a profusion of family and friends who delivered a round of resonating responses replete with hoops and hollers, cheers and chants after every goal made or blocked, every ball steal (I lost count after four), every turnover and every pitch-perfect play executed by the well-tuned team. And, when sophomore attacker, Cory Laidig, kicked the competition into high gear during the opening 90 seconds of play with his first of three goals, the crowd, as it is said, went wild. From that point forward, the clamor simpy couldn't be caged. Of course, the Chargers' persistent, disciplined domination in both the offensive and defensive courts provided spectators with plenty to cheer about.
Laidig's hat trick was repeated by teammates Danny McClintick and Andrew Moore, who each put three shots past Highlander goalie, Thor English. Adam Abdulhamid and Chase Cockerill, critical contributers to the Charger's defensive game, were also successful shooters, scoring two goals a piece for the team. Charger goalie Dominick Beaudine played with a fierce intentionality and purpose that largely held Highlander shooters in check. Beaudine came up with 12 saves, allowing just three Highlander goals.
For the families of seniors, whose inspiring, impressive work ethic, character, and dogged determination to leave a legacy before moving on to college life and competition set the course for this season's historic conclusion, the decisive win was particulary poignant. And, the investment required by the team's student athletes, head boys coach, Dusty Litvak, and coaches Peter Schiavelli and Tibor Forai to become the first Ventura program to win consecutive CIF championships may best be understood by them. They were, after all, the chief purveyors and architects of this pursuit. But, Saturday's crowd certainly made the community's abiding admiration and respect for these young men, their coaches, their training and its requisite discipline, dedication, and commitment, incontestably evident.
It should be acknowledged that these student athletes and their coaches did not simply win a title; they set an example–for us all. They earned their back to back titles not by luck or by chance–but by concerted effort, diligence, intense training and a shared sense of fidelity to the program, the team, each other and those who will follow. As the parent of a freshman who was welcomed and embraced by those to whom he most looks up–not singularly for their athletic abilities, but also for their academic achievements, work ethic, strength of character, leadership and generous reception of the "rookies," just saying "Thank You!" seems inordinately insufficient. With so many opportunities in today's world for young people to engage in dangerous activities, the top-down, positive role modeling provided by Agoura High School's Aquatics Program truly makes it one of the school's greatest assets.
Now, for seniors, Max Menyuk, Christian Meissner, Eric Adams, Adam Abdulhamid, Gilbert Ghang, Chase Cockerill, Danny McClintick, Jon Lai, Travis Leggett, Wassim Hmeidan, Matt Levinson and Forrest Penrod, the long, arduous days and nights spent striking a balance between the rigors of high scholastic standards and the demanding level of conditioning and preparation required to defend a CIF championship title has come to an end at the secondary school level; an eventful, emotional, exciting and exceptionally meaningful end.
Never does it become more clear than at times like these that while sometimes the days may feel as if they last forever, the years are but a blink of an eye.
And, as the coming years unfailingly progress, thousands more will pass through this revered program; a program that has served so many so well. But, just as the program is expanding, advancing and improving, so must the school's pool facility. In order to accomodate the needs of its ever-increasing ranks and maintain its standards of excellence, the Agoura High School pool facility will necessarily require its own improvement, advances and modernization. A contemporary, regulation-size, energy-efficient pool to replace the school's inadequate, deteriorating, nearly half-century old training and competition is an idea that's long overdue.
And, as the boys water polo team places its second consecutive CIF championship plaque on the shelf, it is also an idea that's come of age; one that will keep Agoura High School, and indeed the entire community, at the top of their game.