Their turn! Olympia boys water polo wins state championship | Observer Preps
One year after the Titans girls team won a state title, Olympia's boys water polo matched it with a state championship of its own after beating South Broward in the state final May 5.
| 3:45 p.m. May 10, 2018
It’s not that the Olympia boys water polo team wasn’t happy for the girls team when it won their its championship in 2017.
If anything, being present and cheering on their peers a year ago served as added motivation for the Olympia boys in 2018 — wanting to experience that feeling of reaching the mountaintop for themselves.
They did just that, too.
Having advanced to the single-classification Final Four for boys water polo for the first time, Olympia (29-2) went the distance down in Miami last weekend, defeating Lake Nona in the state semifinal, 19-6, and South Broward in the state championship, 18-15.
And so, nearly 13 months after watching the girls team celebrate a state championship in the pool at Ransom Everglades School, the Titans boys were doing the same as the 2018 FHSAA Boys Water Polo State Champions.
“All season long, we set up a goal of getting to this game (the state championship),” head coach Stephanie Johnson Possell said. “This group of boys watched the girls win last year, and they got really hungry — it sparked a fire in them. It let them know that it was possible for a team from Central Florida to do this and that we can do this here at Olympia.”
Johnson Possell, who also coaches the girls program, rode a youthful roster to her second state title in as many years. Olympia’s boys team regularly started one senior, two juniors and four sophomores.
Despite their youth, the veteran coach said the Titans were effective thanks to a mix of pure talent and enthusiasm for the nuances of the game.
“They’re my AP (Advanced Placement) water polo group — I say we’re playing AP water polo, because they’re so flexible with what we do, and they have learned a lot,” Johnson Possell said. “This group of young men is willing to work hard, learn and listen. They are really fun to coach.”
In the state semifinal, three early goals from Danny Cruz jump-started a 17-0 run that left little doubt as the Titans cruised past their Metro Conference rivals from southeast Orange County.
Then in the state final, Olympia embraced the challenge of facing a team it had never seen before in South Broward.
“This group of boys watched the girls win last year, and they got really hungry — it sparked a fire in them. It let them know that it was possible for a team from Central Florida to do this and that we can do this here at Olympia.”
“It was a true state championship — we were two teams that had never played each other, and that’s unusual,” Johnson Possell said. “We knew they (South Broward) were fast. … We were really lucky that we went up early in the game, and we were able to hang on in the end.”
In the state final, Luke Carey and Alec Johnson led the way, scoring five goals apiece. Carey, who Johnson Possell believes is one of the best players in the state, led the Titans in goals, assists and steals during the regular season and anchored a dynamic roster that was deep in talent.
“We have, I believe, the top player in the state and we have several players who are among the top players in the state,” Johnson Possell said. “When you have that and you can still put in your eighth, ninth, 10th players and not miss a beat — that’s what brings home championships.”