A family dedicated to winning

In and out of the water, the Santa Monica College men's water polo team sticks together.

This year's team is solid with several sophomore members, many of whom grew up together swimming and competing in pools around Culver City and El Segundo.

"Our team is like a family," said goalkeeper Oscar Galvan. "One guy goes to the bathroom, we all go. It's just like that. We're that tight."

This closeness has evolved into a Corsair team that is competitive, and that aspect was on full display in a fiercely fought defeat, 6-5, against water polo powerhouse, Los Angeles Valley College last Wednesday.

"We got a really good group of freshman last year," said Corsairs' third-year head coach Brian Eskridge. "Everything really changed. We became competitive. It's brutal. Everything under the water, everything goes

a lot of holding, a lot of kicking. You're constantly moving, constantly swimming."

According to the Collegiate Water Polo Association, the governing body for college water polo, the history of the sport is as brutal as Eskridge described it.

The association's website states that when water polo was first played in the United States in 1888, it was similar to football in the water, and it was not uncommon for players to be dragged from the water unconscious.

Aside from the physicality, Eskridge touched upon the Corsairs' competitiveness this season.

Eskridge said that there are several key players with great skills and tenacious work ethics who have molded this team into one that is fun to watch.

One of these standout players is sophomore tri-captain Evan Peterson, who had two goals against LA Valley.

"Honestly, I like being in the water," said Peterson. "It's something I've gotten to be good at because I've worked at it."

"He's a monster," said Eskridge. "He's who we run everything through. You need a good leftie. Last year he led our conference in scoring."

Crowd support has been enthusiastic, even with limited poolside seating. Linda Perez, the mother of team member Julian Perez, said she believes that the water polo team has helped mold her son.

"I'm proud of him because he has a lot of commitment and dedication to water polo," said Perez, of her son. "He has good character, a good heart, I think all of that was developed as part of being in a water polo club where those were important characteristics."

"Team cooperation is out there," said starting player Toby Contarsy. "Everyone knows what everyone's ability is. We're all working together, and it's the best SMC team in years because of it."

The Corsairs are back at home in a game against the Citrus College Owls on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m.