Thursday, October 9, 2008
Greg Poppen, the second-year boys' water polo coach at Calabasas High, is on a mission.
"Our program is so much more than the last-pace team trying to improve," said Poppen. "We are a strong program of character."
Poppen said his goal in four years is to win the Marmonte League championship.
Agoura and Royal have been league and CIF champions. Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park have celebrated championship seasons over the years.
Poppen is happy with this season.
"This year, I am happy to say that I have the largest boys' water polo program in the history of Calabasas High," said Poppen.
Ryan Stern and goalie Brian Chaskes are the two returning senior leaders.
The Coyotes posted wins over Nordhoff and Birmingham in the recent Zach Hahn Tournament.
Poppen also teaches four English classes at Calabasas, in addition to being a screenwriter.
Poppen's most recent credit is being a senior writer of the ESPY Awards on ESPN over the summer.
Royal coach Steve Snyder said he recommended Poppen for the Calabasas job because Dave Jackson at the time was the principal and a former principal at Royal.
"He (Poppen) was an assistant coach at Agoura and now he has a class schedule at Calabasas. The rest is history," said Snyder.
"It's dramatic. He's turning the program around," said Snyder. "It's really impressive. He's gotten off on the right foot."
Calabasas will play at Thousand Oaks on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.
Close games: Royal finished with a 3-2 record at last weekend's Villa Park Tournament. All the games were decided by one goal. Royal had wins over Cerritos and Esperanza, but lost to La Cañada, Agoura (10-9) and Damian. Saturday's loss to defending Marmonte League and CIF-Southern Section Division IV champion Agoura was the Highlanders' second setback to their rivals. Agoura had won a thrilling 11-10 game over visiting Royal on Wednesday in league action.
"Agoura is pretty hot and a solid team," said Snyder.
The Chargers have taken over the top spot in The Star's rankings.
"It's a bad bull's-eye," said Snyder of being No. 1. "We have a ways to go and we have to learn to finish games."
Snyder and the Highlanders have several weeks to improve in league games. The Highlanders will host Agoura on Oct. 24 in what figures to be for the league championship.
Agoura, the fourth-ranked team in the preseason, has moved into the hot seat as No. 1.
The Chargers defeated Rio American (NorCal), lost to St. Francis (NorCal), defeated Huntington Beach and Royal, before losing to JSerra in the ninth-place game at Villa Park.
"Anybody can beat anybody," said Agoura coach Dustin Litvak.
Malibu is ranked No. 3 in Division IV. Agoura is No. 5 and Royal No. 5. Thousand Oaks has jumped to seventh and Oaks Christian has cracked the poll at No. 10. Arroyo Grande and Mira Costa are the top two teams. Rio Mesa is No. 1 in Division VI, while league rivals No. 6 Pacifica and No. 9 Oxnard make the Pacific View League strong. Third-ranked Santa Barbara, No. 7 Dos Pueblos and No. 10 Ventura will be challenging for Buena (1) and San Marcos. The Bulldogs have beaten San Marcos, 11-4.