Goal oriented: Roseville, Granite Bay scorers return for water polo gloryBy: Ike Dodson■of the Roseville Press Tribune
Coach: Brad Molina
2014: (14-16, 1-5 Sierra Foothill League)
Key losses: Elijah Keaton, Jacob Darby
Key returners: SR Nick Sapp, SR Joe Costa, SR Kevin Gard, SR Bailery Clark, SR Zach Evenson, SR Josh McCown.
Key newcomers: JR Connor Janney, JR Blake Guillen
Expectations: Roseville emerges as an immediate postseason contender from its new league, the Capital Valley Conference. Bella Vista is the team to beat in the CVC after a 10-0 regular season last year and runner-up finish in the D2 playoffs. However, Bella Vista graduated nine of the 13 players on their roster last year, and could open the door for a new champ.
Coach: Scott Bergemann
2014: 13-9-1 (5-1 Sierra Foothill League)
Key losses: AJ Cosgro, Ian Vachuska, Ben Coleman, Micah Marmortstein
Key returners: SR Christian Emerson, SR Tyler Tovatt, SR Josh Sampson, SR Rueben Medina-Salsedo, SR Vivek Addagalta
Key newcomers: JR Sam Naugle, JR Ryan Williams
Expectations: Woodcreek could slip into a three-horse race with Granite Bay and Rocklin for SFL supremacy, but despite heavy graduations Oak Ridge and Del Oro will look to make an impact. Emerson is the top returning goal-scorer in the SFL, and should shine in his senior season. The championship-race culminates with an exciting SFL tournament that will combine league points with the regular season schedule.GRANITE BAY
Coach: John Macleane
2014: 13-9-1 (5-1 Sierra Foothill League)
Key losses: Frankie Cervantes, Chase Cooper
Key returners: SR Alek Dendall, JR Liam Bell, SR Matt Giles, SR Ryan Sisco
Key newcomers: SO Connor McDonald
Expectations: Dendall returns as a premier goal-scorer who found the back of the cage 70 times in 2013. Several of the role players on the 2013 roster also return to anchor the group. Granite Bay held their own in a scrimmage against highly-touted Rio Americano this preseason. Their success will be determined by the abilities of several first-time varsity starters. A top-3 SFL finish is likely.
Coach: Greg Zanolli
2014: 3RD, Capital Valley Conference
Key losses: Eric Swift, Xavier Dedenbach, Cameron Memmott, Matt Mason
Key returners: SR Cody Purdy, SR Alex Vitmer, SO Jacob Paiva, SR Bradlee Gresham, JR Joseph Zanolli.
Key newcomers: None
Expectations: Oakmont returns several varsity players, but few starters to lead the program into the new season for first-year coach, Greg Zanoli. Oakmont made the playoffs a season ago and could return if experienced players can win close matches during league play. The team doesn’t showcase incredible depth, so the starters will be busy.
Three of the most prolific goal scorers in the Sac-Joaquin Section are back for one last hurrah in Roseville-area pools.
Goalkeepers beware: blocking their shots is sure to cause a welt.
Roseville’s Nick Sapp, Woodcreek’s Christian Emmerson and Granite Bay’s Alek Dendall combined for a bewildering 244 water polo goals last season.
The trio led their teams to 37 total wins last season as the four Roseville-area schools (including Oakmont) combined for three playoff appearances and three postseason wins.
Several starters have departed via graduation, but Roseville, Oakmont, Woodcreek and Granite Bay are positioned for a quality run at the 2014 SJS postseason.
Including the 91 goals he scored at the junior varsity level as a freshman, Sapp has 239 career goals for Roseville. If he can score 102 goals this year, he will reach the 250-goal mark for his varsity career.
He’s big, strong and slams his shots against the back of the cage with authority.
“Nick Sapp has been an excellent scorer from the moment he entered our polo program,” Roseville coach Brad Molina said. “I would expect Nick to find more success this year, given his growth in skills and swim speed, plus the players around him have greatly improved, which will reduce the double-team defense he ran into the past couple years.”
Sapp leads a solid cast of year-round players with big aspirations.
“Our biggest goal as a team is to make it to sections,” Sapp said. “My personal top goal for the team is to win league and bring the banner home.”
A top-three finish in the Capital Valley Conference will guarantee Roseville its first postseason trip since 2003, when the Tigers were runner-up in the Sierra Foothill League.
They switched from the D1 SFL to the D2 CVC this season.
Now a big fish in a little pond, Roseville should shine. They fell to CVC champ, Bella Vista, during nonleague play last year, but Bella Vista was decimated by graduation.
The Broncos graduated all four first-team All CVC selections, including CVC MVP Austin Stevenson. Only four players from the entire 2013 roster return.
Roseville goalie Joe Costa said he expects his team to make the playoffs. He’s a unique sighting in the local pool with a long red beard that drops to his collarbone.
He was Roseville’s starting goalkeeper as a junior in 2013.
“(The beard) was a little smaller last year,” Costa said. “Now when people see me they think I’m a teacher or a coach.”
Costa also serves as the primary goalie for the Sacramento Junior Olympic Team. He had 334 saves for Roseville a year ago. His beard should account for a few extra blocks this season.
Scott Bergemann is a man of many hats.
Well, if the hat says “Woodcreek water polo” than he can probably just stick with one…. but he’s certainly a man of many teams.
Bergemann has the daunting task of coaching Woodcreek’s varsity boys, varsity girls and junior varsity boys.
The 2006 Woodcreek graduate is also pursuing his teaching credential. For a first-year varsity coach, he’s awfully busy.
He’s not long removed from the game though. Bergemann played four years for Woodcreek, was an SJS D2 runner-up as a senior and played water polo at California Lutheran University.
“What I lack in coaching experience I can at least make up in playing experience,” Bergemann said. “It gives me a good perspective on things.”
Bergemann isn’t the only one in the program with quality playing experience. Senior Christian Emmerson led the SFL in goals (90) and assists (60) last year, just ahead of Roseville’s Sapp (84, 44) and Del Oro grad, UC San Diego scholarship player, Keenan Finney (84 goals, 10 assists).
Emmerson, senior Tyler Tovatt and senior goalkeeper Josh Simpson are the three returning starters from a Woodcreek squad that pushed into the second round of the D1 playoffs a year ago.
Woodcreek was poised to take the SFL title in 2013, but allowed a goal in the final second of regulation and slipped 13-11 to Granite Bay in overtime.
“I would like a league championship,” Bergemann said Tuesday. “I expect to compete with all the big guns our division for a section title.”
The Timberwolves are off to a good start. They beat SJS D2 semifinalist, El Camino, in a 20-8 blowout Tuesday.
The Grizzlies are the top returning local team from 2013 after their unbeaten SFL campaign and semifinal appearance in the D1 playoffs.
They return Dendall, who scored 70 times a year ago, but he’s one of only three players to appear in all 28 matches last year.
“We are very young,” Granite Bay coach John Macleane said. “Alek is certainly the most experienced player out there, the only Granite Bay player who ever started on the varsity team for four years.”
Liam Bell (junior) and Matt Giles (senior) saw plenty of action in the SFL pool last year and will fill out a starting rotation that should include senior Ryan Sisco.
Macleane said the competition for Granite Bay’s primary goalkeeper is still open between Chase Wilson, Max Brummer and Connor McDonald.
Macleane said he expects the VOL title chase to come down to Woodcreek, Rocklin and Granite Bay.
“I have no idea what order we will finish in,” Macleane said. “I wouldn’t consider us the favorite in that group.
First-year coach Greg Zanolli, a five-year baseball coach for Oakmont, took the reigns of the Oakmont program just one day before school started.
He has the difficult task of returning Oakmont to the playoffs without several graduated starters.
“We have a very young and inexperienced team,” Zanolli said. “We lack overall team speed and depth, so that will be our biggest challenge.”
Seniors Cody Purty and Alex Vitmer should represent Oakmont’s greatest scoring threats, along with sophomore Jacob Paiva, who played varsity as a freshman.
“Our expectations are to improve enough to compete for a playoff spot once league begins,” Zanolli said.
Email Ike Dodson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @Ike_Dodson.