Support our high school sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber. Subscribe now
Many of Orange County’s top boys water polo teams appeared on the CIF Southern Section preseason watch list, but one in Division 3 especially intrigued because of a standout senior and his supporting cast.
Trabuco Hills and Ben Youngblood are contenders to remember this season.
Youngblood is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound defender with about a 6-foot-7 arm span and 161 career goals. The Patriot Water Polo Club player is receiving recruiting interest from UC Irvine and San Jose State.
“Ben is an exciting player,” said seventh-year Trabuco Hills coach Ryan Mock. “He possesses a lot of the two-way game and his awareness and overall talent is definitely something.”
Youngblood is a four-year varsity member who has been playing club water polo since he was 9 years old.
In the fall of 2019, just a few months before the pandemic halted high school sports for nearly a year, Youngblood helped the Mustangs reach the CIF-SS Division 5 finals. Trabuco Hills fell to Mission Viejo 6-4 but reached its first section championship match since its runner-up finishin Division 3 in 1992.
The Mustangs believe they could make another title run this fall.
“I’m excited to see how far this team can go,” Youngblood said before a practice this week, “if we play like we can.”
Trabuco Hills returns most of its starting players from a team that reached the first round of the Division 3 playoffs last season. The cast includes senior goalie Jaden Watts, junior attacker Zack Vivona, junior center Luke Hounsley and junior utility Parker McEligot.
Youngblood brings a well-rounded skill set to guarding the tempest waters at 2 meters. He can play physical without taking too many exclusions and communicates well with teammates. He scores many of his goals from the perimeter.
“For me, it’s fun just having a challenge going one-on-one against this guy,” Youngblood said of defending center. “We like to press out and let me take the guy one-on-one if I can.”
Trabuco Hills will face three challenging rounds in the Sea View League with Aliso Niguel, Tesoro and Mission Viejo. The upper South Coast League will feature San Clemente, Dana Hills, San Juan Hills, Capistrano Valley and El Toro.
“We have a group that is ready for Division 3,” Mock said. “We’re goal-setting for the right moments … and ready to try to peak in November.”
Youngblood’s sisters Anna and Maya play for the Mustangs’ girls water polo team. The siblings are triplets. … Logan Powell has returned as the coach at San Clemente. Rex Sample is the new coach at San Juan Hills. … La Habra and El Modena have opened new pools. … Corona del Mar will play in the Wave League with Edison, Marina and Fountain Valley. … Newport Harbor has added the North-South Challenge, Oct. 14-15, to its schedule. The Sailors could face fellow Open Division contender JSerra in the tournament and the Elite 8 at Harvard-Westlake on Oct. 6-8. … The Pacific Coast has added a league-concluding tournament similar to the Freeway League. … The season officially began Monday. The CIF-SS finals are Nov. 12 in Irvine.
Please send water polo news to Dan Albano at Dan Albano at [email protected] or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter