Making Waves Again — Bonita’s Varsity Water Polo Team a Storied Franchise

August 26, 2009
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Coach Ashby demonstrates a technique.

Coach Ashby demonstrates a technique.

When it comes to winning, the Bonita High School varsity water polo team might be even more successful than the historic New York Yankees franchise.

For a while there, especially, in the early part of the decade, it was “plug in a coach and a new set of players and win a title.” In 2001, Coach Alex Rodriguez led Bonita to the CIF championship. In 2002 and 2003, it was Ken Carlson. In 2004, it was Mark Amakasu. Then in 2005, in his first year, Coach John Ashby made it five in a row for the boys from Bonita.

Unable to stop them in the water, opponents finally had to rely on CIF officials to do their work for them. In 2006, Bonita was bumped way up from Division 6 to Division 3, where its string of titles was finally snapped. Still, Bonita reached the quarterfinals in both 2006 and 2007, and last season, competing in Division 5, Bonita again made it to the quarterfinals under Ashby.

By comparison, the New York Yankees missed the Major League Baseball playoffs for the first time since 1993.

As for league titles, Bonita has racked up 17 straight. It’s a given that Bonita will be in the playoffs as long as the sun still rises in the east and the La Verne Mayor is still Jon Blickenstaff (oops, Don Kendrick is now the mayor after Blickenstaff this spring stepped down after 27 years of service).

So you see, nothing is forever, not even Bonita water polo supremacy. Year after year, you have to earn your respect in the water. Coach Ashby has a youth-infused roster, which is great if you’re trying to cast a Harry Potter sequel, but not so hot if you’re in the Miramonte League with rivals trying to knock you from your privileged perch.

Of his 14 players, eight are sophomores. Ashby is hoping that the five freshmen he carried on the team last year and who are back with him this season continue to mature quickly.



“They got some really good experience last year,” Ashby said. “And I got to see them perform over the summer against some top teams, and they did pretty well.”

Any inexperience should be offset by senior co-captain Joe Lamson, who will literally have their backs. “It’s huge having a great goalie,” Ashby said. “He does a great job of keeping us calm in the back. Joe is definitely the anchor.”

The other team captain is Alec Williams, who will be everywhere in the water for Bonita as a driver, post-up player and utility player. “He works hard for us,” Ashby said. “He made varsity his freshman year, got some great minutes last year, and looks to be one of our top kids.”

Both Lamson and Williams made third team all-CIF last season.

Although Ashby said he still has decisions to make, he added that the 14 players he’s carrying all “deserve to be on the squad.”


“We have a good two-meter player and a good two-meter guard as well,” Ashby said. “The puzzle isn’t done yet, but we’re starting to put the pieces together.”

Too bad Ashby can’t swim with them, although in practice it seems he spends as much time in the water as he does on the deck, diving into the pool repeatedly to demonstrate a better “eggbeater” or some other fundamental technique, the mastery of which helps win championships. Ashby played his water polo at the Bishop’s School in La Jolla before going on to play at Pepperdine University, a perpetual top 5 water polo Division 1 powerhouse. At Bonita, he teaches Spanish and also runs the area’s club water polo team, Foothill Club Water Polo (

Besides growing up near the water, what else attracted Ashby to the sport so much that he decided to make a career out of it?

“It’s kind of a mix between soccer, basketball, hockey, swimming and wrestling,” Ashby explained. “It’s probably one of the tougher sports around. When the kids are out in the water wrestling against somebody, trying to stay up and not drown, and at the same time play a game within a team philosophy and goal, that’s quite a challenge.

“Plus, it keeps you in great shape, and swimming is also a great non-impact sport you can keep up throughout life.”

For now, the Bonita varsity water polo team just wants to uphold tradition. But if history is any kind of honest indicator, fans can expect another Bonita title and another run deep into the playoffs.

2009 Bonita Boys Varsity Water Polo

Joe Lamson – senior

RJ Mercado – senior

Brandon Parlopino – senior

Tommy Lisbin – junior

Alec Williams – junior

Caleb Guarino – sophomore

RJ Massro – sophomore

Alex Munson – sophomore

Keaton Renta – sophomore

Alec Snow – sophomore

Nick Wallman – sophomore

Kevin Webb – sophomore

Matt Zachary – sophomore

Sam Stavang – freshman

3 Responses to “Making Waves Again — Bonita’s Varsity Water Polo Team a Storied Franchise”

  1. Hi As a Grandmother of Matt Zachary. I must say I am really impressed with your team! Wish I could be there to watch you play. I live in Washington State and Matt’s Father keeps me posted on your wins and your progress. Congratulations on your record for winning so far. Hope it lasts. This was a great link for me to understand what is going on with your team. Thanks! Good luck! Judy Zachary

  2. You guys are going to win it this year you will have to go through some tough teams but the team ashby put together is talented enough to do it you should be expecting 2 more cif championships after this year

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