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OC Register sports reporter Dan Albano writes about JSerra Boys Water Polo's bright future as the new season approaches.
Rising JSerra Excited About Future
The potential for JSerra's boys water polo program appeared almost as limitless as the blue sky above Irvine that mid-November day in 2019.
The Lions, with their Olympian-turned-coach Brett Ormsby leading the way, captured their first CIF-SS title without the aide of a senior in the pool. They were young and inexperienced but Division 4 champions.
Then the pandemic hit a few months later.
Yet despite the obstacles that arrived, including the delayed and abbreviated 2020 season, JSerra has still managed to progress even if its roster remains young and inexperienced.
The Lions (2-0) are ranked fifth in Orange County with a deep squad, an emerging standout in sophomore Will Schneider and aspirations of being selected for the new Open Division bracket in the CIF-SS playoffs. They start the season grouped in Division 1.
Like most teams, JSerra might have been further along if not for the pandemic but it seems to be only looking forward.
"The future is bright," Schneider said after the Lions' 10-9 victory against No. 6 Laguna Beach on Tuesday. "We're at the start of the mountain. We're just starting to climb. It's crazy. We have so many young, talented players. We only have a couple seniors graduating. . . . It's super-exciting."
JSerra leaned on only three seniors -- Waylon Fox, Steve Partsch and Jason Pieracci -- against Laguna Beach, receiving its scoring punch from sophomores and juniors.
The Lions pushed the counterattack for goals and exclusions while seeking the same objective by setting multiple players at 2 meters. Schneider, a 6-foot-5 center, contributes to both pursuits, and also defends and passes well.
"He's very good, and I'm pretty understated," Ormsby said. "He's a learner. He's a smart kid. He's a good kid. He works hard and he's talented."
Schneider recently earned MVP honors after leading a U.S. cadet team to a tournament title in Budapest, Hungary.
He wasn't yet in high school when the Lions defeated San Juan Hills 13-10 for the Division 4 crown but helped JSerra in the spring upset Orange Lutheran in the Trinity League.
Juniors Drew Vangrin, Johann Thrall and goalie Jack Helfer are other key returners.
Vangrin is capable of posting up at center and excels on defense. Thrall possesses arguably the hardest shot on the team while Helfer has valuable CIF championship experience.
Mason Presley, a transfer from Laguna Hills, is another key junior.
Sophomores Maddox Arlett, Bode Brinkema and Alex Nguyen also are players to watch.
Yes, depth is a strength, which fits well for a team looking to push the counterattack for four periods.
Ormsby said his team understandably lacks game experience but the start of the Mission Water Polo Club in January delivered more matches for JSerra players in the off-season.
"We're a team that's still trying to find itself a little bit," the fourth-year coach said.
"We need to push that forward. We've got to challenge ourselves and challenge each other, and find who we are and embrace who we are. ... (The Open Division) is definitely our goal. We'll see where we end up."
JSerra Catholic High School water polo players Waylon Fox, Drew Vangrin, and Will Schneider, from left, at the school’s pool in San Juan Capistrano, CA on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)