Santa Barbara’s Water Polo Wizards

Gold Medal Goalkeeper Sami Hill Coaching Dos Pueblos Charger Boys into Playoffs

Paul Wellman

Sami Hill had a great pedigree to become a world-class goalkeeper in water polo. Her father was a football lineman at Fresno State, and her mother a basketball point guard at BYU. Blessed with size, vision, and reflexes, she anchored the teams at Dos Pueblos High and UCLA, and she earned a gold medal as the USA’s backup goalie at the Rio Olympics.

Before she decides whether to go for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Hill is going to play for a club in Sydney, Australia, next year. “I’ll use that as a test run,” she said. In the meantime, she’s been training at the Elings Aquatic Center on the Dos Pueblos campus, and Charger boys’ water polo coach Connor Levoff recruited her to be his assistant.

“She’s tough,” said Levoff, who sometimes has Hill play goalie in practice. “She raises the level of our shooting.”

Hill’s protégé on the boys’ team is Angus Goodner. In a recent game between the Chargers and Righetti, a highly ranked team from Santa Maria, Goodner made a point-blank save in the final minute to preserve a 10-8 DP victory.

As Goodner emerged from the pool, all 58 and 125 pounds of him, Hill remarked, “He’s tiny, isn’t he?”

Goodner began an interview by saying, “I’ve never been very athletic. I’m weaker than most kids. I do what I can. I had to work at it.”

A junior, Goodner is a straight-A student with a keen interest in math. It took the encouragement of his younger brother, Rex, a DP freshman, to get him into the pool five years ago. “I wasn’t very good at it,” he said. “Playing in the field was a bit too physical, so I became a goalie. I’m glad my brother introduced me to the world of sports. I enjoy the company of teammates. Without water polo, I’d spend most of my time in my room.”

Goodner has been good enough for the DP boys to lead the Channel League. He made several key saves in an 11-8 win over Santa Barbara High last week. “He’s light, and he moves quickly and efficiently,” Levoff said. In the field, the Chargers get scoring punch from Ethan Parrish and Jason Teng. They’ll go into the CIF playoffs next week.

World Series

The following observations were made before Game One on Tuesday:

Now that the Dodgers have made it back to the Fall Classic for the first time in 29 years, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that they will prevail over the Houston Astros. But then, looking back to the 1988 World Series, I am reminded that the Oakland A’s were expected to overpower L.A. until a swing of Kirk Gibson’s bat and a marathon of Orel Hershiser’s pitching subdued them. Houston can hope that history repeats itself, maybe with 56 Jose Altuve as giant-killer and Justin Verlander as run-stopper.

Then: The A’s won 104 games during the 1988 regular season and breezed to the American League pennant by sweeping the Boston Red Sox in four games. To win the National League, the Dodgers, winners of 94 games, had to survive a harrowing seven-game series against the New York Mets.

Now: The Dodgers set an L.A. franchise-record 104 victories and tacked on a 3-0 division sweep against Arizona and a 4-1 rout of the Chicago Cubs. The Astros disposed of the Red Sox, 3-1, but had to win the final two games to outlast the Yankees in the AL championships, 4-3.

Discounting those portents, it certainly looks like the Dodgers’ year. A club that relied on Clayton Kershaw in past postseasons has added three more capable starters, a dominant bullpen, and a contagion of timely hitting, no matter who is plugged into the lineup.

“They are deep, deep, deep,” said Bill Pintard, the manager of the Santa Barbara Foresters and a disappointed part-time scout for the Yankees. “They won without Adrian Gonzalez, who was going to be their four-hole hitter. They lost their shortstop [Corey Seager] against the Cubs, and they didn’t miss a beat.”

Pintard gave credit to Andrew Friedman, the GM who built the roster, and Dave Roberts, the field manager who’s quietly pulled all the right strings. “The Dodgers have good chemistry in the clubhouse for the first time in years,” Pintard said. Andre Ethier, never known for his humility in the past, has accepted a part-time role. Yasiel Puig is still flamboyant, but his antics are tempered by a newly disciplined approach at the plate. The furry face of these Dodgers is Justin Turner, a blue-collar third baseman who lets his clutch plays speak for themselves.

Call them the best team that money can buy ​— ​their payroll is the highest in the majors ​— ​but that was no guarantee that the Dodgers would pull together so smoothly. They went through a 1-15 stretch without any finger-pointing.

The worst thing you can say about the Dodgers is that management sold their TV rights for $8 billion to a network that failed to sell the package to key satellite and cable outlets, causing a season-long blackout of their games in most fans’ homes. Ironically, that maligned TV deal is at least partly responsible for the postseason success Dodger fans are now celebrating, inasmuch as it enabled the club to spend freely ​— ​and, it turns out, wisely.

The truth is that the Dodgers would still be in Brooklyn if money were not the driving force in the game.

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