Before the high school water polo season began, senior Zac Young knew his Turlock High team had some questions.
"We lost some key starters to graduation," he said. "We had some solid players returning, but the big question was who was going to step up?"
The answer was, every Bulldog stepped up. They battled their way to a share of the Central California Conference championship; they lost in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, to eventual champion Davis of Yolo.
Nobody stepped up more than Young, who scored 89 goals en route to CCC MVP honors. For his efforts, Young has been named The Bee's 2008 Boys Water Polo Player of the Year.
Young, whose sister Lauren was a standout water polo player for Turlock in 2006 and now plays for UC Davis, said Turlock's season turned after a loss to CCC rival Buhach Colony in the fourth game of the year.
"It was a big eye-opener," he said. "It told us that there were other teams out there working just as hard as we were. It drove us for the rest of the season."
The Bulldogs came back to beat the Thunder the next time they played. The teams shared the CCC title, but the Bulldogs' playoff draw meant they would match up with section powerhouse Davis of Yolo in the second round.
"Our goal was to make it as far as we could go," Young said. "The semifinals would have been great. But that was a tough draw. Davis beat us, and went on to win the section title."
Young started playing water polo in the seventh grade. His first practice was a trial by fire.
"I loved water, I knew I was going to play water polo," he said. "But my first practice (for Modesto-
Stanislaus Water Polo), I missed my age group. So we were thrown in with the high schoolers on that first day. It was an eye-opener."
But he still loved it. And kept at it. Lauren was also on her way to being a standout. Their father, Dave, was a water polo goalie. He credits his mom, Corie, too.
"She was a track star," Zac Young said. "She likes to say she gave us her endurance."
He's still plugging away.
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.