Trailblazer boys water polo splits opening games under new coach

Golden West opens season with 7-7 record and split first two WYL games under first time head coach Karl Weit

VISALIA – It’s been six years since the Golden West Trailblazers won back-to-back Valley Championships and they changed head coaches twice during that span. After coming off a pair of sub .500 finishes in their last two seasons, the Blazers are working towards reestablishing a winning program with new head coach Karl Weit at the helm.

An ongoing pandemic doesn’t seem like an ideal circumstance to start a coaching career, but Weit is one of many coaches around the country that were forced to deal with that reality over the last year. Within days of his hiring last March, all high school sports competitions in California were canceled. As a result, his debut was prolonged 17 months to the start of this season. There were some growing pains as the Blazers lost their first three games, but they finally got their first win against Sierra Pacific, 17-7.

“Learning a new coach’s system, especially after coming out of COVID, is never easy,” Weit said. “Last year we didn’t really have consistent practices where things could be learned.”

They are seemingly finding their stride as the season progresses. After starting out 1-4, they are now 6-3 in their last nine games. With the season over halfway complete, one of their biggest wins came last Tuesday as they narrowly defeated the reigning runner-ups to the Division III Valley Championship, Mt. Whitney Pioneers, 11-10. The Pioneers swept the Blazers in 2019. Two days later they fell 17-6 to the Redwood Rangers, as they split the opening two games of league play. The Rangers are the clear team to beat in the WYL as they finished atop the league in seven straight seasons.

Four-year varsity player Matthew Wheeler has been the silent assassin for the team. He’s not the loudest player in the pool but his play speaks volumes. He is the team’s leader offensively in goals and also sets the tone on defense. The unquestioned vocal leader of the group is goalie Reed Unholz.

“He’s really the one that has the emotional reactions…he’ll be the one to get frustrated before they do…I want everyone to be showing emotion but he’s the one that should be the emotional leader,” Weit said.

Despite being a first-year head coach, Weit brings a wealth of knowledge to the Blazers. After a standout high school water polo career at Atascadero High School, he played two seasons at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo where he was a two-time all-conference selection and second-team All-American in 2009. After transferring to University of California, San Diego, he came back to Cuesta College and spent several seasons as an assistant coach before accepting the head coaching job at Golden West.

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