Dolphins Win 7th Straight Water Polo Title
Top-seeded Palisades High easily won the CIF City Section boys water water championship last Thursday by defeating second-seed Birmingham, 13-5.
This is PaliHi’s seventh consecutive City championship under head coach Adam Blakis.
Junior Oliver Grant and senior Luis Uris scored three goals in the first half as the Dolphins pulled ahead of their arch rivals, 6-1.
Junior Maximo Speiser added a goal in the third quarter as did Grant and seniors Matt Garcia and Zach Wunder, giving Pali an insurmountable 10-2 lead. Junior Chris Ramos scored the final goal.
Senior Theo Trask led the Dolphin defense with four steals, and goalkeeper Dmitry Gorozhankin, only a sophomore, stopped 12 shot attempts. The Patriots had a tough time getting around him.
“I started playing goalie about four years ago,” Gorozhankin told Circling the News. The toughest adjustment in this particular game, he said, “was having someone get back on defense, so I had someone to throw to.”
As the match progressed, it was apparent that Birmingham was becoming more upset with its inability to score. “They were frustrated and started to get a little chippy,” Blakis said. “My players have learned to respond really well to that kind of play.”
Blakis praised his players’ teamwork and was asked how they were able to play so smoothly. “I let them call their own plays,” he said. “They’re out there [in the water], they know what’s happening.”
“Max [Speiser] is in charge,” Blakis said. “He’s like Magic Johnson, a point guard.
“This was a pretty easy game for our guys,” the coach noted. “They’ve been preparing and working really hard.”
The Dolphins won the Western/Marine League with an 8-0 record, beating Venice, San Pedro, Los Angeles CES and Banning twice each. They now stand 27-4 overall this season.
In the playoffs, Pali beat Robert Kennedy Community School (24-1), Venice (19-5) and Cleveland (17-2) to reach the finals.
Wunder led the team’s scoring this year with 50 goals, followed by Grant (48), Urias (43), Garcia (28) and Zeke Ramirez (27).
Trask led in steals with 107, Grant had 55 and Wunder had 42.
Assistant coach Kirk Lazaruk said, “We’ve worked with the graduating seniors since they were 14.” There are six of them and “their personalities are all so different,” but “this summer they played on the same club team.”
Lazaruk also noted that the team should again dominate next year. “We have so many returning juniors, we’re set.”
Next up is the CIF SoCal Division III Tournament, with second-seeded Palisades playing No. 7 Cathedral at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach on November 16.
If the Dolphins prevail, they will face either No. 3 Birmingham (again) or No. 6 Valley View on November 17.