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Xavier Water Polo Wins First Desert Empire League Title

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Justin McWay

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December 16, 2018
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Xavier Water Polo Wins First Desert Empire League Title

Xavier water polo team after winning first league championship.

Xavier water polo team after winning first league championship.

Xavier water polo team after winning first league championship.

Xavier water polo team after winning first league championship.

Xavier Athletics has been off to a strong start in the 2018-2019 school year. As we wrap up the Fall season and head into Winter sports, Xavier Water Polo deserves some notoriety. With joining a new league that is in its first year, the Boys Water Polo team won the first ever Desert Empire League Championship (DEL). They finished the season 21-7 and ended the League with a perfect 9-0 record.

Hard work is necessary to win a championship, and that is exactly what the Saints did in preparation for the season. Rumors of intense training and practices spread around school. Senior Kyle Cenicola agrees with this statement saying, “I feel that the training helps so much. It shows perfectly in the last quarter of games or the last game of the tournament. The other teams get tired while we still have the energy to finish.” The training is also essential to them because they are short-handed with players on their roster compared to other teams, so the team had to perform to the best of their abilities all game long.

At Cathedral City High School, Xavier Saints faced La Quinta Black Hawks. This contest was for “all of the marbles,” the Desert Empire League Championship. This championship was everything for which the Water Polo team had worked. The ball was in play, and the game started. Both teams fought hard and played with a mindset that a championship was on the line. Xavier led the game 12-10 approaching the last few seconds; thoughts that ran through Junior Declan Cooper’s head were “Crazy. This has been in our head the whole season. The grind through all of the morning practices, afternoon practices, and weights all led to this moment. We had 2nd places for the past two years and putting forward all that sacrifice really paid off.”

The Saints celebrate after taking the victory.
Photo Credits: Terry Cervello

After winning the Desert Empire League, the Saints fell short in CIF to University High School (Irvine, California) with a score of 8-7. Looking back at a great season, Coach Valovic said the leaders on the team were the Seniors (Kyle Cenicola, Jackson Castillo, Colin Dervieux, Brandon Sontz, and Justin Wickstrand) and Junior Declan Cooper. But he credits the whole team for playing their individual roles and doing what was asked of them. Coach added the only low point of the season was, “The pressure we faced. We knew we were the ones who were most likely to win it this year. And we figured out a way to handle it.” Asked about how the team bonded outside of the pool, Senior Justin Wickstrand stated, “We’ve all been playing together for some time now, so we had a really solid foundation of friendship. We’ve all gotten along these past three years and even before. But I think this year we really became a family.” He also described how the team would get lunch after practice on Fridays, and hung out quite frequently on weekends.

Senior Kyle Cenicola looking for an open teammate against La Quinta High School. Photo Credits: Mrs. Cervello

Some of the Seniors shared how they felt about their time playing for Xavier. After four years of Xavier Water Polo, Kyle Cenicola felt that his favorite memory was winning the DEL title. He said, “We trained so hard for that moment. When we finally won, it was the greatest feeling knowing I did it with my best friends.” Justin Wickstrand said that if he could change anything about his whole high school career, he would have wanted to have the team dynamic they had this year. He added, “We were close in my first three years, but this year we all became brothers, and I think that elevated our playing.”

Xavier Saints are losing a lot of players next year from the Senior class. However, they still have Junior Declan Cooper and Sophomore Dylan Vanmeeteren, along with other forces that continue to make the Boys Water Polo a tough team that no one wants to face. Can Xavier repeat such an incredible season next year? Will they be able to handle the pressure without this year’s Seniors? Do they have what it takes? Stay tuned and watch out for them again next year!

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About the Writer
Justin McWay, Writer

My name is Justin McWay, and I attend Xavier Prep High School in California. I am taking Publications, and I love the class! I play Varsity Basketball,...

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Xavier Water Polo Wins First Desert Empire League Title