High School Water Polo Powerhouse Gets New Coach

CORONA DEL MAR, CA., Dec. 23. AARON Chaney used to dress rather casually for work — shorts, rubber thongs, a whistle — and nothing else.

Not anymore.

Now he's much more formal.

"Yeah, I gotta wear a shirt and pants and sneakers
…it gets COOOOLLLLDDD out here on the deck in the winter."

Chaney is the new girls' and boys' water polo coach at Southern California prep powerhouse Corona del Mar High, which just last month won the boys' CIF DII Championship for the second-consecurtive season in then Coach John Vargas' swan song.

Vargas has been lured away to guide the Stanford University men's program. Stanford veteran head man Dante Dettamante retired following the end of this past season — a season which culminated with the Cardinal winning its ninth NCAA Championship and eighth under his leadership, which has lasted for the past quarter-century.

So to whom did CDM's Sea Kings turn to to replace Vargas?

Chaney, who has been coach at Orange County's Villa Park for the past five months, but before that served as coach at Hawaii's Iolani High in Honolulu for 19 years.

In Hawaii, boys' polo is contested in the fall and girls in the spring. The temperature rarely dips below 70 degrees there so "I always was working in a
swimsuit and thongs," Chaney says. Now I'm wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants here."

How could Chaney leave Villa Park so soon after taking over its program?

"I didn't like leaving something I just started but positions like Corona del Mar's don't open up very often," he explains.

Chaney picked an optimal time to become the Sea Kings' head man. The girls' team is ranked No. 6 in Southern California early in the season and reached the CIF semis last year. Among the players back from that team are juniors Danielle Carlson, Christina Hewko and Daniela DiGiacomo, who combined for 209 steals, and comprise the nucleus of a stgrong defense that has yielded only three goals in their first two games.

Chaney says former head man Vargas "prepared the girls very well. They're a well-disciplined, veteran outfit and I've been impressed with what they've shown me so far."

The newest Sea King attended legendary Punahou School in Honolulu, then went to college at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he played on the Gauchos' initial NCAA championship team in 1979. He returned to Hawaii to teach math and coach polo at Iolani from 1981 to last year, also guiding the girls' team the past five years.

What lured him back to Southern California wasn't so much the position at Villa Park as the fact that he's a world-class referee, one of seven Americans so certified by FINA, aquatics' worldwide governing body.

To be closer to the U.S. national training center at Los Alamitos' Armed Forces training Center just south of Long Beach, Chaney returned to the mainland 18 months ago, with hopes of representing his country as a referee at the Sydney Olympics.

He wasn't selected for one of the two spots available, but made up for that disappointment by working the World Championships cometition at Fukuoka last summer. He's also worked numerous NCAA Championship matches and hopes to be among those selected to work the Athens Olympics three years hence.

But before that there's the "little matter" of wining a CIF title or two.

"We're working on it," he says.

* * * * *

Whittier, CA., birthplace of the only American president to ever resign his office, has a new $1.5-million aquatic facility for the Whittier High School
Cardinals.

The school's old pool was rendered unuseable as a result of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the new facility was completed just last summer.

The Cardinal boys' polo team was so enamored of its new facility it won the CIF Division IV polo title last month, the school's first since 1959 — when that aforesaid president who resigned was then the vice-president.

– Bill Bell

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