San Marino’s Chemistry Key to Winning League

San Marino High School water polo assistant coach Bilal Elgabalawy and head coach Robert Zirovich

San Marino High School varsity boys’ water polo coach Robert Zirovich lost key players to transfer and graduation, including Rio Hondo League MVP Alessio Brunochelli, but the third-year coach is starting the season with more optimism than ever.
“We lost Aaron Wilson, who transferred to [La Verne] Damien, and Alessio to graduation,” Zirovich said. “On paper, we have less talent, but in terms of what we’re doing in the pool, we’re just playing more of a team game than we were last year. Our defense in particular has taken a step forward in the right direction.”
Returning players such as Charles Wong, Jacob Yee, Blake Castleman and Dillon Goldsmith showed a dedication to the program during the offseason, and now the Titans are off to a 5-1 start to the season.
“It’s a product of what the kids have been doing the past nine months,” Zirovich said. “Guys like Jacob and Charles have been working their butts off in the offseason. They missed almost no practices in the last year and have been great leaders. Blake did very well, and Taylor [Suetsugu] and Dylan Goldsmith have been dedicated with club. Our goalie Andres Mercado is getting back into things and he’s shaping up very nicely.”
San Marino opened the season with an 18-10 victory over Los Altos of Hacienda Heights last week. The Titans then competed in the Chino Hills Ayala Tournament and dropped their first match against Alta Loma of Rancho Cucamonga. They bounced back in the competition by defeating San Bernardino, Citrus Valley of Redlands, La Verne Bonita and Cajon High of San Bernardino.
The Titans’ solid start hasn’t gone unnoticed. The team is currently ranked No. 9 in CIF Southern Section Division 5.
“Well, that is something,” Zirovich said. “It’s just great. The last few years, we weren’t ranked toward the end of the season.”
Zirovich says the group is coming together early in the season and still improving. The squad will need to play its best when the Rio Hondo League season begins. La Cañada, South Pasadena and San Marino are the top competitors for the league crown, and Zirovich said his team will accomplish its goals by continuing what it is doing.
“It’s real simple,” he said. “Dedication. We’ve been building a culture of dedication for a while at San Marino, and the boys are doing a decent job on following through. I expect more of the same and greater dedication later in the year. The time and effort we’re putting in practice as a team will translate when we perform in a game.”
Practice has helped Suetsugu become the Titans’ prime candidate for a breakout season. The sophomore was on the junior varsity squad last year and has already shown his skills as an all-around player.
“He had a spectacular JV season with us last year, and he’s added a lot to the varsity team,” Zirovich said. “He’s drawing ejections and playing good defense. He’s also one heck of an offensive player, scoring goals and being a facilitator as well.”
San Marino traveled for a nonleague match against Brea Olinda on Wednesday and will have its home opener against Flintridge Prep on Sept. 20 at 3:30 p.m.

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