The Los Banos boys water polo team came three goals away from going to the playoffs last year for the first time in the program's history, losing 9-7 to Pacheco in the final game of the season.
The players who return from that team feel confident they can finish the job this year.
"Our situation is, you know, we're building. We've got a lot of freshmen this year, but we've got a lot of juniors," Los Banos coach Darryl Barger said. "I think we have a lot better team unity this year."
The Tigers return goalkeeper Marcos Hedrick and point man David Melendez, along with shooters Jared Benitez and Dalton Brooks, to name a few. The team also adds senior J.T. Barcellos, who hasn't played since his freshman season, instead playing sophomore football and concentrating on his basketball and tennis seasons.
"We have a good chemistry going on," Hedrick said. "It's just everyone knows what play is coming up next, everyone knows what to do during that play, everyone's connected. We know how to use all of our abilities to the fullest."
With some practice time under their belt, the Tigers are starting to get a feel for what everyone is capable of.
"Our team is definitely looking great. Everyone's working really hard, going 110 percent in practice all the time," Melendez said. "We know all of each other's strengths. We know who has a tendency to do what."
And looking around the league, with LB returning more starters than most teams, the playoffs are once again a realistic possibility. There's still a season to be played, though.
"We know the goalie from Pacheco is good. There's no doubt about it," Barger said. "Ceres plays in a short pool, and so they know, and they have 25 people. Central Catholic, this is their last year in the league, so they've brought back the whole team. They didn't lose anybody except one or two. They have new coaches. But Ceres is predicted win the whole thing."
Los Banos opens the season at the WAC Jamboree on Sept. 7 at Pacheco High.
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6565 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org