The Pacers have appeared in the past four state championship games.
The Lakeridge boys water polo team has grown into one of the state’s best in recent years.
Indeed, the Pacers have appeared in the last four straight state championship games, winning the Oregon High School Water Polo championship in 2019 and finishing second to crosstown rival Lake Oswego a year ago.
While the Three Rivers League remains as tough as ever — Lake Oswego went unbeaten a year ago and the TRL also includes perennial power Newberg — the Pacers believe they have the ability compete with those other top teams.
“Lakeridge High School water polo is always committed to excellence,” said Lakeridge coach Aukai Ferguson. “Our athletes know when they join the program that the expectation is they come ready to give their best effort every day and as a result, success will follow.”
The 2022 Pacers will be led by a quartet of returning all-league players that helped take the team to the state championship game last year, including team captain John Allison (he was a second-team all-TRL pick in 2021), team captain Colin Alexander (an honorable mention pick), Henry Sturges (honorable mention) and Rocco Lepiane (honorable mention).
Other top returning players are senior Brody Burk, senior Barrett Burnham and senior Tyler Dunn.
“We return a solid group of seniors that all contributed to last season’s runner-up finish at state,” Ferguson said. “Colin Alexander and John Allison, as team captains, are expected to provide the leadership in and out of the pool that our program’s success is built on.”
Newcomers to the Lakeridge varsity include freshman Ethan Thomas, sophomore Kai Dodson, sophomore exchange student Markus Wojtalik, sophomore Porter Bayne and junior goalie Lucas Tyson.
“Wojtalik will give us more depth and speed,” Ferguson said, adding that Bayne “surprised us last year with his performance … and we expect him to contribute significantly this year,” while Tyson will take over for Burk as goalie, “Lucas’s skills in the cage and Brody’s strong shooting warranted the switch.”
Also ready for varsity time this year are: Sebastian Grigore, Micheal Smith, Justin Rim, Wyatt Sturgeon, Ben Zahn, Kai Calbreath, Daniel Bassaly.
That said, Ferguson knows just how tough a task winning the Three Rivers League will be.
“I am very excited for this year’s Three Rivers League on the boys side,” he said. “Newberg is always the team everyone wants to beat, but it was Lake Oswego that dominated last season and they will be tough again this year.
“However, Tualatin and Tigard should also be strong because a lot of their athletes made the commitment to play club water polo in the off-season. It’s my opinion that the Three Rivers League will be the one of the toughest in the state.”
The Pacers open TRL play against Lake Oswego at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, at Lake Oswego School District Pool.
See the Lake Oswego preview here.
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