ALL-AREA BOYS WATER POLO
The 2011 boys water polo season might have been one of the Valley's best ever.
Nogales and Bonita won CIF-Southern Section division titles and Damien advanced to a division final as well.
All three teams had enough superstars to fill out The Tribune's boys water polo first team, but Nogales' Nick Estevez stood above the rest.
Estevez's record-breaking season and back-to-back CIF titles with the Nobles earned him Tribune Player of the Year honors for the second year in a row.
Estevez set a single-season CIF-SS scoring record with 233 goals, eclipsing the mark of 229 set by Hoover's Hakop Kaplanyan in 2009.
The Nobles senior broke the record in the Division 7 championship game by scoring four goals in Nogales' 8-6 victory over Don Lugo.
In addition to his 233 goals, Estevez also had 57 steals and was named Valle Vista League and Division 7 Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row.
Estevez said his biggest joy was helping put Nogales water polo on the map. Prior to his arrival as a freshman, water polo at Nogales was more of a recreational sport than anything competitive.
"When I started out, I never dreamed that it could end like this," Estevez said. "We did it with hard work. We were a team in every sense of the word. I never thought I would accomplish what I did or that our team would accomplish what it did.
"But I learned the team that has the strongest bond pulls through. A teamthat can carry chemistry in practice and in games is unstoppable. You want to be successful? It all depends on how bad you want it."
Those traits were not lost on his coach.
"Nick finished his high school career with an extraordinary season by averaging seven goals a game," Nobles coach Alex Matal said. "Nick did a lot more than just score for our team, he was also a mentor to his teammates. He helped the coaching staff develop and teach his younger teammates the fundamentals needed to be successful during practices and competition."
Setting the scoring record did not surprise Matal, who expects more of the same when Estevez is at Mt. SAC next fall.
"Nick was committed and dedicated to repeating our program's success, whether that meant he scored or one of his teammates scored," Matal said. "The coaching staff placed Nick in a position where he found repeated success throughout the season. As you know, he did not know about even tying the (scoring) record until after our semifinal win at Mt. SAC."
The Nobles finished 29-4 and had much more than just Estevez.
Senior goalkeeper Christiaan Ortiz and senior defender Ramon Martinez each were named to the Tribune first team.
Ortiz was phenomenal in the playoffs and finished with 328 saves. He also was all-league and a Division 7 first-teamer.
Sanchez was a rock defensively, but also helped out with the scoring load in finishing with 73 goals, 49 assists and 45 steals.
Sanchez was named Nogales' defensive player of the year while also making the league and Division 7 first team.
With the help of 13 seniors, Bonita defeated Pasadena Poly, 5-2, to claim the Division5 title and earn coach John Ashby his second CIF title and first since 2005.
For his efforts, Ashby was named Tribune Coach of the Year.
The Bearcats finished undefeated in the Hacienda League for the second year in row. Bonita, in fact, hasn't lost a league game in 20 years.
But winning CIF titles is what it's all about.
"It was nice to get thrown in the water again," Ashby said. "The guys really latched onto the idea that to win a championship you have to put in the work.
"At the beginning of the year I looked at our completed roster. On paper, I believed that we were the team to beat in the division. But we had to have quality practices and execute learned skills in the water.
"This year we did just that. After a six-year gap in championships, it's great to finish the season with a win with such a great group of young men."
Bonita's Keaton Renta and Caleb Guarino, both seniors, earned first-team honors.
Guarino gives the area two goalkeepers on the first team. He had 267 saves, 92 steals, 33 assists and two goals. He was selected the league's co-MVP and was named the Division 5 Most Valuable Player.
Renta, co-MVP of the league with Guarino, finished with 102 goals, 39 assists and seven steals.
He also was named to the Division 5 first team.
Damien came up short in the Division 3 championship game, where it lost to powerful Laguna Beach, 14-8.
But it was a big year for the Spartans, with seniors Austin Miller and Connor Farris earning Tribune first-team selections.
Miller, named the Sierra League MVP and a Division 3 first-team selection, finished with 78 goals, 58 assists and 115 steals, all tops on the Spartans.
Farris, who earned all-league and Division 3 first-team honors, set a school record with 51 ejections drawn while also scoring 77 goals.
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