California Highway Patrol officer Vince Roeber was at the Yosemite High School pool last Friday - not for a lesson in defensive driving - but to help get the Badger water polo teams up to speed for the season ahead.
Although the school’s new water polo coach met his players a couple days earlier, Friday was the team’s first practice.
“Being brand new here is both good and bad,” Roeber said while overseeing about 40 boys and girls going through passing drills in the water. “Before last Wednesday, I did not know a single player in this program ... that’s not good, but what is good is that every single player out here starts the season with a clean slate. I have no preconceived ideas of any of the team members,” Roeber said.
Roeber, 34, said the teams are getting a late start as many high school teams in the Central Valley have been playing since May.
Roeber brings a lot of water polo experience to Yosemite. Born and raised in Hanford, he played water polo in junior high school, and for Hanford High. He then served his alma mater as the boys varsity coach for seven years, and his resume lists two CIF D-II Central Section Championships (2004 and 2009), and one season (2007) as section runner-up.
The four-and-a-half year CHP veteran (now working out of the Mariposa office), said his coaching philosophy is about coaching the fundamentals of the game, and about building rapport with his players.
“Right now I’m trying to get the players to learn solid fundamentals of the game, and to learn my mindset, and how I want them to play and why,” Roeper said. “I need to trust them, and they need to trust me.”
Roeber said his ‘way to play’ is with confidence, passion, adaptability, and trust.
“Even the best game strategy is quickly debunked if your team does not trust it,” Roeber said.
Roeber calls water polo “a great sport,” and said wins are a by-product of the game.
“What’s important to me is developing character, and confidence in my players,” Roeber said. “I want them to believe in themselves and know they can accomplish what they set their minds to do.”
Roeber and his wife Heather, have three children with their fourth due in December. The family moved to Mariposa in December.
“When we moved, I remembered Yosemite had a water polo team, and I thought it would be good to come out a couple days a month to help out,” Roeber said. “After finding out a new coach had not been named yet, I ended up applying for the position. Water polo has always had a special place in my heart and it seemed like a good way for me to get involved with the community.”
Junior Ron Luther returns after leading the team in scoring last year. Another team leader this year will be junior goalie Dylan Thacker. A a sophomore playing varsity last year, the 6-foot-5, long-armed Thacker was a solid goalkeeper with repeated blocked shots.
Junior Peter McClean returns to the varsity team bigger and stronger.
McClean said Roeber is very approachable and “is very knowledgeable about water polo.”
“The team is optimistic about the season under Coach Roeber’s leadership,” said McClean. “We expect to at least win league and hope to make a good showing in playoffs.”
Sophomores Burke Stewart and Justin Talley return to the team after a showing a lot of promise as freshman last season.
The Badger had a rough go of it last season being placed in the County/Metro Athletic Conference (CMAC) with first-year coach Bill Di Fiore - against schools with much larger enrollments like Madera South (2,700), Sanger (2,700), Bullard (2,550), Madera (2,100), and Edison (2,400).
At the time, Yosemite had about 700 students. Both the boys and girls varsity teams went 2-10 in league play. The move to the CMAC was made after the North Sequoia League dropped water polo.
Di Fiore took over the program after 10-year coach Brandon Brokaw stepped down to spend more time with his family after building one of the most respected small school water polo programs in the Central Valley. Under Brokaw, the Badgers won three league titles (two girls and one boys).
Brokaw’s 2013 boys varsity team placed second in the NSL with a league record of 12-3, advancing to the CIF D-II Central Section quarter-finals after beating Fresno High 10-7 in the first round. The Badgers lost to No. 1 seed Tulare Union in the quarter-final game. He has continued as coach of the school’s successful swimming program.
Teams in the realigned league this year with Yosemite are Kingsburg, Chowchilla, and Selma.
Girls varsity team
The girls’ team lost five outstanding players to graduation; Malory Meiss, Julia McConville, Haley Clark, Olivia Pearson, and Kimiko Smith.
The only seniors on this year’s team are Taylor Wade, and Brianna McCully. There are eight juniors returning to the team including Kaily Neal, Laura Pearson, and Isabel McGoldrick.
Key players from last year’s JV team joining varsity this year are Carina Lusk, Ryan Miller, and AnnaMaria Luther.
Wade was the team’s goalie last year who blocked nearly 30 shots-on-goal.
“Last season was tough playing against those large schools,” Wade said. “But we learned a lot, and and we will be more competitive this year playing against schools more our size. We will learn a lot from Coach Roeber that should carry over to our games.”
Assisting Roeber with all four teams (boys and girls varsity and JV), is teacher Cari Ruhmor, who also serves as the school’s athletic trainer.
Yosemite Water Polo Schedule
Sept. 8: McLane at Yosemite - 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 15: Madera South at Yosemite - 5 p.m.
Sept. 17: At Madera South - 5 p.m.
Sept. 22: Kingsburg at Yosemite - 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 24: At Selma - 4 p.m.
Sept. 29: At Chowchilla - 5 p.m.
Oct. 15: Selma at Yosemite - 5 p.m.
Oct. 20: Yosemite at Kingsburg - 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 22: Chowchilla at Yosemite - 5 p.m.