By ARIANNA TONG, MIRAMONTE
November 7, 2013
As the 2013 high school water polo season transitions into the North Coast Section Championship, 15 high schools will battle for the next two weeks to determine the best high school water polo team in the NCS. However, inside the plethora of great teams consists of standout athletes who play an impressive game of polo.
Name: Clay Smudsky
Year in High School: Senior
The Lowdown: There is no coincidence that the best water polo players are superior threats in the pool. Not just in one or two positions, everywhere. Take stealthy defense, a thunderous counter attack, and stack on the shot blocks; prepare to watch an intense, and fast paced game of polo by none other than Miramonte’s Clay Smudsky. Smudsky is a cunning, agile, and tenacious force in the pool, and played on varsity as a freshman.
The senior participated in the NCS playoffs all four years, and played a crucial role in the Matadors' victory over San Ramon Valley in last years championships. In 2012-2013 Smudsky was drafted for the Olympic Development Program National Team Selection Camp. Without a doubt, Smudsky has a brilliant skip shot, and a knack for quick witted defensive play, averaging about four shots per game. While the Matadors hope to continue their two-year reign as NCS champions, Smudsky will once again be counted on to play a major role.
Name: Michael Bull
Position: Whole Defender
The Lowdown: The Latin phrase, “Per Angusta Ad Augusta,” translated into English means “through difficulties to honors.” As Alhambra enters NCS as the first seed in Division II with a great squad on hand, the case was unlikely four years ago. After three championship final round losses and faulty win/loss records, Alhambra’s Michael Bull was able to lead the Bulldogs to one of their best seasons in 2013.
Bull, who is a deceptively graceful force in the water, was drafted for the Olympic Development Program National Team Selection Camp in 2013 and moved up to varsity as a starter his sophomore year. As a player who bears a strong arm defensively, astute situational awareness, and a thirst for victory; Bull shows much promise as a leader coming into NCS.
Name: Tyler Kirchberg
Position: Center Defender
The Lowdown: It seemed as if the Miramonte Matadors faced their biggest challenge of the season seconds away from going into overtime at the 2012 NCS Championships. All the Mats needed was to out-swim, out-shoot, and shut down San Ramon Valley’s offense. At this point with one minute left in the fourth and the score tied, the chances were against the odds.
Then the unthinkable happened when Tyler Kirchberg slammed in the winning goal 1.53 seconds left in the game. The Miramonte Matadors had just edged SRV in what would be one of the most memorable championship games in NCS history. However, Kirchberg is back for his final season to continue the victorious reign the Matadors have carried for the last three years. Like Smudsky, Kirchberg, has much to offer when it comes to the game of polo; agile, stealthy, brisk defense, bullet-like shots, and outstanding situational awareness.
School: Las Lomas
The Lowdown: Spencer Creed is a tremendous threat. Not just on the pool deck, but inside the cage. When it comes down to skill set, the goalie is a powerhouse and has a remarkable ability to block practically every ball that comes whizzing towards the cage at 50 mph.
Creed, who towers at 6-4, shows no remorse inside the pool, possesses an undeterred appetite for victory, and can single-handedly throttle his opponents. As a freshman, Creed was a starter on varsity who played a crucial leadership role all four years. In 2011, he was rewarded as MVP at the Olympic Development Program NorCal selection camp, and led the Knights to claim two consecutive D2 NCS victories.
In 2012, the Knights petitioned up to Division I but faced a devastating upset against SRV in the second round of the NCS Championships. However, after playing polo in Montenegro for the summer - a country renowned for breeding a vast majority of Europe’s best polo players - Creed is back and at the pinnacle of his career as one of the best goalkeepers in Northern California. He plans on playing for UC Davis next fall.
The Lowdown:The game of water polo is one of the most brutal sports in existence. Defensive game play can quickly escalate into a war zone of barbaric and merciless attempts to deter the opponent. For Miramonte’s Grayson Judge, this is second nature.
Judge’s career started in sixth grade with Lamorinda Water Polo, which would eventually lead to an ongoing legacy of terrific skill set, a spot on varsity as a sophomore, the Olympic Development Program’s National Cadet Team, and one of the best defensive players coming into NCS. Judge’s keen, innate, ability to skillfully handle the ball and thrashing defensive game play is no match for his opponent. While the 2013 season was successful for the junior, the Matadors could be even stronger in 2014 through Judge’s leadership.
The Lowdown: Like many great sports heroes, a players ability to rise up to any occasion to prove himself worthy is a sign of a greatness. For Drake’s Mitch Young, the occasion was every week at a league game; proving to be a prevailing force in the pool, a lively shooter (averaging 3-4 shots per game), and a brilliant and crafty player.
As a freshman, Young was immediately stationed as starter on varsity and nominated by his coach as the youngest first-team all-league player in 15 years. In 2011, he was drafted for the Olympic Development National Team training camp. Young went on to become a humble, adroit, and innovative player, lead the Pirates to claim two league victories, and topped off his final season as an established offensive threat coming into the 2013 NCS Championships.
School: Las Lomas
The Lowdown: The story of the underdog turned into an uprising sports prodigy is a classic, especially for Las Lomas’s David Kessler. The junior, who was a starter on varsity a sophomore, has a whip for a shot, and a cannon as an arm. In 2012 Kessler was nominated for the DFAL second-team all-league, and made the cut for the 2013 ODP men’s youth national team.
However, Kessler’s track record wasn’t always this outstanding- who started out as a goalie in seventh grade, and struggled in the field as a freshman. Despite these setbacks, the progression of Kessler’s skill level and emergence of solid gameplay is astounding. Coming into the 2013 NCS Championships, Kessler bears a superior threat offensively as a leading scorer for the Knights.