Season ends on a high note

Justin Prakaiphetkul, Asst. Sports Editor

Despite struggling in their first year in Division 4, the Diamond Bar High School boys water polo team ended the season with two straight wins and a 3-2 record in the San Diego Open tournament.

For the season, the team finished with a 2-6 record in league and 13-16 overall.

To begin the three-day long San Diego Open tournament, the Brahmas defeated Southridge 10-7, but lost to Granite Hills, 17-5. On the second day, the team won against Mt. Carmel 7-5. The boys finished tournament with a 11-10 win over Bellevue and a 16-5 loss against San Pasqual.

“During the tournament, [senior Aaron Velarde] took control and guided everyone on the team to let them know what they’re doing,” senior Cameron Belden said. “[Senior] Mark Parent really stepped up in his shooting. He previously was hesitant to shoot, but he got a lot better during the tournament.”

Belden said that the boys’ performance during the tournament was more team oriented, in comparison to their play at the start of the year. Belden cited the team living together in San Diego during the duration of the tournament as the reason for the improved team chemistry.

With the team moving up two divisions from last season, the Brahmas were not able to find consistent play throughout the season.

“This season was much more difficult than last considering the number of seniors that we lost last year and that we moved up two divisions,” senior Logan Knight said via Facebook. “Regardless, we did have a lot of improvement this year, finally beating league opponent Claremont for the first time in program history.”

Even though the team was not able to replicate last year’s memorable 19-16 season, individual players were able to excel in certain statistical categories. Velarde led the team in total points and goals, scoring 107 points and 89 goals for the season. Junior Christian Cheung led the team with 24 assists, and junior Brandon Lin was first on the team in steals with 54 total.

“Brandon Lin really took control of the defense. He really stepped up to the plate,” Belden said. “Our coach would have him guard the best guy, and that guy would be shut down immediately.”

Additionally, junior goalie Raphael Mutuc saved 249 balls, accumulated 33 steals and averaged 8.9 saves per game.

“Raphael Mutuc is one of the most promising underclassmen who improved drastically from last season,” Knight said. “He made the jump from frosh to varsity this season and has taken the challenge of adapting to a harder environment head on.”

Head coach Alexander Matal said via email that seniors Tyler Parquette, Velarde, Belden, Knight and Parent helped to establish a solid foundation of what it takes to compete in water polo for the underclassmen to follow. Matal said that the team will have nine returning players next year.

“We will continue to fine tune our technical skills in passing, shooting and ball handling,” Matal said.

With the team losing six seniors next year, Belden stated that he believed Lin has the ability to step up into a leadership role due to the way he approaches the game and his high expectations for the team.

“Whenever we go into a game, a lot of our teammates feel as if they have already lost based on the team they play,” Belden said. “Brandon Lin does not think like that. His mentality is ‘I’m going to go into this game and play my hardest.’”

Knight said that he expects juniors Sebastian Galeli, Mutuc and Lin to lead the team as veterans next season.