His voice cracking at times, Noah Lee held back the tears as he reflected on the end of his water polo career moments after Sobrato High’s 22-8 win over Lincoln on Wednesday.
“I’m very sad it has come to an end, but it is time,” said Lee, a senior hole-set who scored 10 goals in the season-finale. “I still love the sport and I really feel it’s where I belong, but it’s time. It’s good to know I am at peace and I can leave the sport with a clear conscience, knowing that I’m satisfied ending my water polo career here.”
The lone senior on the team, it was only appropriate Lee scored the team’s final goal with a wicked backhand shot, something that took years to develop.
“I love that shot and have not realized how much of a signature shot that has been for me until people started saying all the time, ‘Take that shot,’” Lee said. “My parents always said that’s my shot, and it’s definitely a great honor to be able to have the proper training to develop that skill. I know a lot of other people out there who don’t have those blessings, so I’m very grateful I’ve had the opportunity to have great coaches throughout my entire career.”
Evan Stapleton had six goals, including three consecutive during a sizzling stretch in the final period when he unleashed a variety of shots from different areas of the pool. Sy Lazzaroni scored three goals and Matt Primeau scored twice in the second half after playing goalie in the opening two quarters. Ethan Wells accounted for the other Sobrato goal.
Andrew Newberg played his usual solid defense, as he and Lazzaroni forced several Lincoln turnovers that led to goals in the first half. With no junior varsity squad and a couple of players on the varsity who had no water polo experience before the season started, Sobrato managed to finish 2-3 in the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division.
Lee took pride in serving as a leader on a young team of underclassmen amid a pandemic that forced the delay of the season by six months.
“This year I’ve had to grow with the saying that you deal with the hand you’re dealt,” he said. “You can’t change the hand that you’re dealt, but you have to push forward, be a leader, have faith in yourself, and have faith in those who you’re working with. And if you do all that, then hopefully you can come out with a win, and if not, you learn from that.”
Lee credits the incredible learning environment at Sobrato for helping him develop as an overall student-athlete.
“I love the school so much, and that is why it’s emotional right now,” he said. “Everything the school is and has done has been just a huge part of my life, and I attribute everything I’ve learned to this school. I’m very happy at my time at Sobrato, how this team developed and how we grew together. I have faith they will put it all together to have a good season (in the fall).”
The Sobrato girls water polo team finished 4-4 overall and 3-3 in BVAL Mount Hamilton Division play, capped by a 17-5 win over Lincoln on Wednesday. Coach Scott Jackson said the season was a success not just because the team played well, but the fact they were able to play at all.
“Even in February and March, it looked like we weren’t going to have a season,” he said. “Then things suddenly changed directions and we got to have one. All the girls were happy to play, and in some ways this year was the most rewarding because of the situation and knowing everyone appreciated being out there more than they ever have.”
Senior Kylie Downing played goalie for the first three quarters before switching to the field for the final period. She had one goal and three assists, the latter particularly noteworthy because of the position she plays. Downing possesses a rocket for an arm—she’s scored a couple of times from beyond half pool this season—and combines that with a deft touch which resulted in perfect passes that connected with her teammates in-stride on breakout goals.
Annie Ly had three goals and five assists and fellow senior Maddy Nelson scored four goals, a spectacular performance when one considers defense is Nelson’s strength, Jackson said. Junior lefty Katie Parker finished with three goals in a superb effort as the Bulldogs dialed it back in the second half after taking a 10-0 lead into intermission.
“All the girls got an opportunity to play, and the four seniors (Downing, Nelson, Ly and Melani Quezada) all got a chance to finish their final year with a real schedule,” Jackson said. “So you feel some real satisfaction in that.”