After a historic season for myself and my teammates, breaking multiple program records and going further than the team has ever gone, I think it’s deserving to reflect on how special it was.
To have a season like we did, it takes sacrifices. After the 2021 season I was ready to hang it up and move forward with my life, but in my mind I had that nagging thought that if I walked away now, I might miss out on something special.
With the decision to stay, I sacrificed another semester at a university, and stayed to have one last ride with the teammates I cared about like my own family.
Coming into this 2022 water polo season, I knew we had a special group of guys returning, only graduating two players from our previous seasons roster, and adding multiple key transfers along the way with a former division one player Ryan Lichlyter, alongside two freshmen Patrick Aiello and Zachary Ulrich.
When building a program from the ground up, having consistency throughout all aspects is key, and returning eight valuable players from last year’s team proved to be one of our strongest aspects.
“Returning eight guys meant everything,” Las Positas captain Kyle Young said. Young continued, “It means consistency and chemistry coming back in, allowing us to use the same plays and sets as last year and build off them, getting even better as a team in all situations.”
We as a team knew the chemistry would develop quickly as the season began, as eight of our 15 players on the roster have been playing for Lamorinda Water Polo Club, a year-round USA organization. We grew up together, learned each other’s game inside and out, and formed a bond from a young age.
“You don’t see that around the league, teams being made up of childhood friends that all wanted to play one last season together and ended up at the same spot, it’s special and has been a large part in what made us so successful,” Young said.
Our team was on the doorstep of making history as early as last year, and along that path, we became the first team in Hawks water polo history to have a winning record at any point in the season when we started 3-2.
The pioneer season last year ended in heartbreak, losing back to back games by a singular goal in the conference tournament. These tough losses against Merced and Ohlone left our team just one goal short of qualifying for the Northern California playoffs, a bracket in which the team has never had its name.
In that loss came tears and frustration. You work so hard every day in practice and have an amazing season, and we felt as if we robbed ourselves of a tournament our names should have been in. I went home after that tournament and re played those two games in my head over and over, because I knew we were capable of so much more than our season ending in conference play.
We knew we would have to come back stronger the following season if we wanted to get over the hump and reach ground breaking heights for the program.
Fast forward 12 months and 30 games later, our team punched a ticket into the Northern California playoffs for the first time in the history of the program, with an 8-7 overtime win against the team that sent us home last year in Merced College.
Alongside qualifying for the Northern California playoffs, we became the first team in program history to end the season with a winning record, holding a formidable record of 18-14 heading into postseason play. This success didn’t go unseen by teams around the state. Turning heads and having southern California teams put us into the hardest brackets possible to test our team game by game.
“We got some notice last year, but this year it’s confirmed by other teams that our programs are heading in the right direction. We beat an entire conference in Southern California when we traveled to San Diego in September,” Head coach Jason Craighead said.
Following the San Diego tournament, where we went 3-1 and defeated the top two teams in the Pacific Coast conference in Southern California, we had our name all around the state. The biggest headline being Kyle Young earning a player of the week award for the whole entire California Junior College water polo association, as well as our team being ranked just outside the top 10 teams in the state.
When I entered the program during the COVID-19 pandemic and had a five game season in the spring, going 0-5 and getting blown out in every game, I knew we had work to do. This is a group of players and coaches that have been staring at an empty trophy case for the history of the program and decided to make a change.
With an increased work ethic and an “all in,” mentality from the team, the change was made. This change allowed the team to come in 4th place in the Northern California playoffs, earning a trophy to finally go into the case, as well as medals for all the players.
Being a part of history isn’t something all athletes get to experience, but it takes a lot of hard work and buying into what you believe you as a team can accomplish for it to happen.
This season with the Hawks has provided me with some experiences and memories I’ll take with me for life and tell my family about.
Through all of the heartbreak we endured and intense practices we held, deep down our team was just a bunch of guys who loved each other having fun one last time, and that’s what made our group so special.
You can look at the accomplishments we achieved throughout the season as the ones to remember when it’s all said and done, but what really brought our team together was the bus rides, hotel rooms, and team dinners where we’d enjoy the experience that is college sports.
The program has a great coaching staff and will stay in a competitive place for a long time, and I can walk away proud of what my brothers and I have accomplished. Truly historic.
Jacob Fogelstrom is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him @jacobfogie.