Keeping the momentum going after a successful season can often be a tough task.
The Burbank High boys' water polo team will be facing just such a challenge this season after enjoying one of its most fruitful years in program history in 2012.
Across town, Burroughs will also be looking to build on the success it enjoyed last season after making it make to the playoffs for the first time in a number of years.
The rival squads also have something else in common: new coaches. The Indians have tabbed former player and 2008 graduate Michael Singhanate to head the program, as he takes over for Danny Garcia. Taking over for former coach Kristina Garcia at Burbank is Zeb Jenkins, who was a Bulldogs assistant.
Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.
The Bulldogs went 14-8 in 2012 and were a competitive force in league. Along with finishing second in the Pacific League behind Glendale, the Bulldogs won their CIF Division V opener against Arlington, 14-10, before falling to La Serna, 14-10, in the quarterfinals.
However, Burbank lost two key players to graduation, athletes who were All-CIF Southern Section Division V selections. Senior standout Zack Card was a first-team pick, while fellow senior co-captain Sean Savoy made the second team.
The Bulldogs lost a lot with the departure of the two. Card tallied 61 goals on the season, to go along with 34 assists, 11 field blocks and 52 steals. Savoy had nine field blocks and added 38 goals and 24 assists. Both were also all-league first-team selections and Card was an All-Area second-team pick.
But the team does have a returning All-CIF selection in senior goalkeeper Derek Baer, who garnered a third-team selection. Baer finished last season with 123 saves, 24 assists and 16 steals.
"We have some returners from last year's squad and some players from JV have moved up to the varsity level," Jenkins said. "For those who are returning, last year's nice CIF playoff run was one of the best experiences that the Bulldogs went through."
Burbank also has a potent returning offensive weapon in senior utility Dante Nazarian. The all-league pick had 43 goals, 24 assists and 41 steals in 2012.
"Dante Nazarian and Derrick Baer are looking to gear the team toward another run with the help of the new starters and upcoming players coming off from the bench," Jenkins said.
Returners who should bolster the Burbank squad are sophomore driver Artur Mheryan, senior attacker Andres Pulgarian, senior utility Robert Mheryan and senior two-meter Gevork Terzyan.
Jenkins said by being a coach in the program last season, he knows the caliber of talent and knows what to expect from his players.
"As an assistant last year, I've had the privilege to coach everyone," said Jenkins, who will be assisted by former Burroughs player Jarrod Przebieda, who played alongside the Indians' current coach. "I was able to prepare a few players from the JV squad last year for the varsity team this year. There were a few times where I filled in for the head coach at games last year and there are players this year who know my coaching style.
"This year we have added many great players to the JV team, where we will be grooming them and preparing them for the varsity level for next year since we currently have a varsity team with more than half of them being seniors."
Despite losing some key players from last season's successful squad, Jenkins said he is not lowering the expectations for this season's group.
"I have high expectations from the returners and I believe this year, despite losing such talent from last year's squad, the players on the current varsity team will step up and take their places," he said. "We have a great team with Dante Nazarian, Andres Pulgarian and Derrick Baer leading them in the water. Our first goal is to reach the league championships and then move our way toward CIF.
Jenkins said he expects the stiffest league competition to come from Glendale and Crescenta Valley.
The Bulldogs open their season Tuesday with a nonleague match at San Marino.
Being a former athlete and a graduate, Singhanate said he is pleased to be back at the place where he used to compete.
"It's nice to be back," said Singhanate, whose younger sister, Alicia, is a starter on the Burroughs girls' tennis team. "It's really great to be working at my alma mater and seeing some of the same people who are at the school when I was here."
Singhanate inherits a program that placed fourth in the Pacific League a year ago, as the Indians (13-11) qualified for the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs for the first time in seven years. In the postseason, Burroughs notched a wild-card victory against Bonita, 8-6. Unfortunately for Burroughs, its postseason stint was cut short with a 12-5 loss to Riverside Poly in a first-round contest.
The coach said things have gone pretty smoothly since he took over the program.
"For the most part they're all like sponges, they are absorbing things really well and really fast," he said. "I was a little worried coming in being a new coach and having my way of doing things, which might me different from what they've been used to. But the players have been really respectful and they have been receptive to what I'm trying to do. So, it's been good."
Like the Bulldogs, the Indians lost some key players from a year ago. In addition, Singhanate said the squad will have only a few seniors this season, who he will rely on for leadership.
The biggest loss to graduation was all-league player Casey Ueno, who led the team with 77 goals and 16 assists. He also collected 65 steals.
Some of those seniors who will be relied on this season are utility Oscar Hernandez, senior utility Daniel Silva and senior hole-set Gary Karzachayan. Hernandez is the leading returning scorer from last season, having tallied 42 goals to go along with seven assists and 44 steals
A promising freshman who Singhanate said could make an instant impact, although the coach hasn't decided where to play him yet, is Aram Nordayan.
"He played come club polo in Europe, so he is a good player," Singhanate said. "He is a nice asset to have."
Vying for the starting goalkeeper position will be senior returner Dillon Weigand and junior Adrian Sosa, who moved up from the junior varsity.
In league competition, Singhanate said he expects Crescenta Valley to likely have another solid squad. He is also looking forward to playing against Burbank and his former teammate.
"I am really excited for that game against Burbank," he said. "From what I understand, one of my former teammates from high school, Jarrod Przebieda, who went on to play at Concordia, is an assistant coach there. That should be a fun game."
Burroughs kicks off its season Saturday with a nonleague contest on the road at Alemany.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun