Dominant teams don’t happen by accident, and in the case of the Buchanan boys water polo team the 2018 season has been primed for a while.
Led by three four-year varsity starters, the 2018 Bears are hungry, carrying into the season a ton of experience, talent and a never-ending quest to be the best.
“This team has a very high ceiling,” Buchanan coach Nic Maes says. “Every year we have goals to win the TRAC and CIF Championship but we want to improve upon that finish this year. As cliché as it is, we are taking the season one game at a time.”
And they definitely have the extra motivation this year.
Despite dominating the Central Section last year (they didn’t lose to a team in the section), going 10-0 in league and winning its second consecutive Central Section D-I title, Buchanan lost 7-4 to eventual state champion Drake in the NorCal Regional Semifinal.
So far in 2018 the Bears are 5-1 and have outscored opponents 88-31, their only loss an 11-9 decision to Menlo-Atherton in the championship game of the Roche Tournament on Sept. 8.
Oh yeah, and about that trio of four-year super starters.
Let me introduce, or perhaps re-introduce, you to Kaleb Archer, Gabe Putnam and Zach Zetz, the pillars of Buchanan boys polo who have been playing since they were between eight and 10 years old.
Maes describes the trio this way: “The experience and leadership they bring to the team is unmatched. They each fill a specialized role on our team while also having the versatility to play any position in the pool.”
Archer plays center and is a matchup nightmare for whoever the Bears play; physically dominant and very creative, he currently leads the team in both goals (22) and assists (8).
Putnam plays center defender and can neutralize anyone he’s matched up against; he’s the strongest guy on the team and usually leads the counter attack with ferocity.
Zetz has the ability to create for himself on drives and is also a very strong defender, leading the team in steals (9).
Sounds like a winning formula for sure, however, every championship-caliber polo team has a stopgate, the man in the cage, and the Bears have a good one in Conner Schink, a senior who has waited his turn at being the final defender.
In addition to top-flight tournaments in San Jose and San Diego, the Bears started off TRAC play with a dominating 15-3 win over Clovis West on Sept. 9, a game Archer scored six goals.
As the for 10 seniors on this year’s team, they’ve become a band of brothers.
“You look around at a practice and realize you’ve been working together for this moment since seventh grade,” Archer said. “As long as we leave it in the pool, getting to play with a team that’s become family is already a dream season.”