AquaCrusaders season is for the record books

This boy's water polo season has truly been one of a kind.

Jalyse Hanson

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Thursday’s water polo game made Mater Dei history in two ways.

For the first time in Mater Dei history, the men’s water polo team made it to the semi-final game in CIF. Just a few years ago, the team was nowhere near 10-0 league champions, 22-5 overall record, second in CIF, or a team in the semi-final game. But with hard work, dedication, great coaching, and some key players, they made history.

Guy Souza has been the water polo coach at Mater Dei since 2006 and that CIF game was the last water polo game he will coach at Mater Dei. Coach Souza says the thing he is going to miss most about coaching this team is “the camaraderie with the team. This was truly a gifted group that was very close and fun to be around. Friday scrimmages were some of the best times during the year and those practices helped with our team unity. It was amazing to see how competitive this group would get over winning a scrimmage. I’ll also miss all the smiles and hugs after each victory, those moments will last me a lifetime…”

One of the greatest lessons I have learned from the 2017 ball club is how to be unselfish.”

— Coach Souza

After many years of not having the best teams, Coach Souza stuck it out and last year in 2016 won his first league title with the boys. To add onto that, these boys, led by Coach Souza, won league again this year making them back-to-back league champs. Something that has never been done before in Mater Dei water polo history.

Coach Souza has influenced all of these boys tremendously, beyond just the rules and tectis of the game. As one of the seniors, Fernando Margain said, “Coach Souza has helped me in water polo by motivating me in my bad days and helping me always be a better player. I am really going to miss all his jokes and his personality.”

Margain got to spend a lot of time with Coach Souza, but Souza still affected those who spent just half that time with him. As sophomore Sabino Muro said, “Souza has helped me to understand the game and also to love the game. I’m going to miss him saying ‘wrong answer, wrong answer, wrong answer.'”

One of the key players that has made a huge impact on this team’s success is senior Ben Brown. Breaking records every year he has been at Mater Dei, including most career steals, most career goals, most career assists, most season steals, most season goals, most season assists, and most varsity games played with 106 games.

Brown has been a huge factor that has played into the run this team made. Sadly, Brown’s high school water polo career has come to an end. Even though Brown will no longer be playing water polo for Mater Dei, it has still affected his high school experience as a student and athlete. As Brown put it,“ water polo affected my high school experience by giving me three things. Competition, physical activity, and teammates. Water polo would not be as much fin without my teammates throughout the years.”

Another key player that has also helped out the team quite a bit is Junior Juan Hernandez. Hernandez has been on varsity since his freshman year and has been a captain since his sophomore year, along with Ben Brown. Hernandez has helped out tremendously on defense by guarding the hole but also put some balls in the cage. This year was a great one for Hernandez too, here are his thoughts on this years run, “I believe this year has been one of Mater Dei’s best water polo team in just the fact of chemistry and intelligence in the pool…the Magnificent Seven will leave with a 10-0 in league a record of 24-5 with a second seat in CIF D2. The dream team for Mater Dei Catholic Water polo will be always remember for the heart we had in the pool during a game.”

2017 will always be a year to remember for these crusaders, especially the seniors and Coach Souza. The kids learned a lot from Coach Souza; but he also learned a lot from them. As Souza said, “One of the greatest lessons I have learned from the 2017 ball club is how to be unselfish. This group was so unselfish towards each other. They played polo for one another, they held each other accountable, they played for the school and the pride they had for being at Mater Dei, and what touched me the most, was that they played for their coach. In every game we played we had a different player step up to help ensure victory. This group never put anyone above the ball club and shared the responsibility of winning equally.”

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AquaCrusaders season is for the record books