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PAUL RODRIGUEZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Chas Hornecker, left, Mike Miller, and Bobby Lee, right, are senior captains on the Foothill High School water polo team. The trio helped the Knights capture the CIF-SS Division 2 last season. Hornecker and Miller were selected All-CIF.

Water polo preview: Foothill brings fun approach into season

STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA - Water polo is a serious pursuit at Foothill, but not all the time.

Coach Jim Brumm, in his 29th season, likes his players to have fun and enjoy the often-grueling sport. His approach explains some of the breaks the Knights have taken over the years.

There have been impromptu bowling excursions, everybody-against-the-seniors scrimmages and traditional alumni matches on the morning of Christmas Eve.

On a training day last season, the players brought melons to practice.

“Melon day,” defender Bobby Lee recalled.

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The players used watermelons for in-pool weight training, holding them as they practiced their egg-beater, an efficient way of treading water. After practice, the players feasted on the fruit … or did their best imitation of watermelon-mashing comedian Gallagher.

Chas (Hornecker) threw his off the events center (at school),” said Lee, igniting laughter.

By late November, Foothill delivered a true smash-hit, capturing the CIF-SS Division 2 crown.

With the return of seniors Hornecker, Lee and Mike Miller, the Knights are aiming to defend their title this fall.

A repeat would be a first for Foothill. In its glorious history, which includes Olympians and three CIF titles (1995, 2008, 2014), the Knights have never won consecutive section crowns.

“We have a pretty good chance,” said Hornecker, an attacker. “We worked hard last season and we’re going to work hard this season. Everyone feels it. Everyone is pretty pumped for another CIF championship, hopefully.”

Foothill’s optimism starts with the senior trio. All three were first-team All-Crestview League selections last season, combined to score 198 goals and each carries at least a 3.3 grade-point average. They helped the Knights beat Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga, 10-7, in the finals last season.

The players, also teammates with the SOCAL club, will be counted on for their leadership, too. They’ll serve as captains for a team ranked No. 1 in the Division 2 preseason poll.

“For the younger guys coming up, we need to let them know what it takes to win and how much work is really required,” said Miller, an attacker.

Foothill’s prospects have been buoyed by an influx of young talent. The Knights return improving goalie Arash Izadmanesh (junior) and will mix emerging players, such as center Griffin Gaughran, Zane Scott (sophomore) and Nolan Ortega (junior) to their lineup.

Hornecker’s younger brother, J.J., and Miller’s younger brother, J.T., are among the reserves.

Center will be the position to watch. The Knights graduated All-County holeman Gavin Scott, last season’s Division 2 player of the year. But Foothill also is developing center Joseph Molina, a sophomore.

“The team has potential, but there are a lot of teams (in Division 2),” Brumm said. “There’s a lot of good teams in our division.”

Foothill struck a successful balance in the summer. The Knights finished fifth at the state tournament in July, highest amongst public schools.

“We won a lot of games, beat a lot of good teams,” Lee said. “We have a good team this year and work well as a unit."

The Knights, however, won’t forget to have fun.

“The major thing is for the kids to come out here, work every day and I want to have fun, too,” Brumm said.

So put the watermelon on standby.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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