By Rick Assad
Trying to place the ball into the net isn’t an easy proposition when you’re in a swimming pool and there’s a defender in your face trying to prevent you from doing so, but in the case of Clarisa Robles, she managed to score plenty of goals and in the process stand out.
Besides being a terrific swimmer and smart, Robles, a four-year starter, was able to find the exact angle and also perfect her timing just before launching a rocket toward the goalie.
These factors all helped the recent Burroughs High graduate to be at the top of the scoring chain for the Bears in countless matches.
“I was able to score by creating opportunities for myself and most importantly being on the same page as my teammates,” said Robles, who will attend and play women’s water polo for Siena College in Loudonville, New York. “My shot is accurate, and I have worked to make sure that I am able to control the ball how I want to in all kinds of situations.”
Robles, who was named All-Pacific League as a sophomore and a senior, isn’t a fish, of course, but could be considering all the time she spends in the water.
“I began my interest in water polo when I was eight right after I completed all the levels of swim lessons. My swim instructor suggested that I should join a swim team, but when my dad [Jose] took me to watch a practice I got overwhelmed,” she acknowledged. “Shortly after that I found out about water polo, and it was my favorite thing to do during the summer when I was little. The thing that interested me about it was being able to be in the water while playing an actual game.”
Robles, the winner of the Coaches’ Award as a senior, likes to spend time in the pool to keep herself in tip-top shape and to strengthen her game.
“During the off-season I joined the Rose Bowl [Aquatics Center] so that was my main source of staying in water polo shape,” she said. “We would practice four days a week and have tournaments over the weekends.”
Every match count for one win or loss but some have greater significance.
They mean more when a victory comes versus a quality opponent, and those stand apart in your mind.
“I approach big games by listening to my pregame playlist that consists of songs that my dad has played in his car during road trips, rides to practice, and drives to games,” said Robles, who was the team’s Most Valuable Player as a freshman and the Best Offensive Player as a sophomore. “Knowing my opponent is something that I like to do to prepare myself for what I should be expecting to see in the upcoming game.”
In so many cases, the toughest and most challenging matches were contested against Arcadia and Crescenta Valley.
It was for Robles. “The games that stood out most to me are both from my sophomore year and those are the Arcadia game to win league and the Crescenta Valley game because it was the first time in 10 years that Burroughs varsity water polo beat CV varsity water polo,” she said. “We didn’t end up winning the Arcadia game, but we went into double overtime, and it was a great game on both ends.”
The Bears have been an outstanding program under Coach Jacob Cook and Robles, who received an award after her sophomore and senior years for maintaining a 3.0 grade-point average, was a key contributor.
“During the league we went undefeated, but in the overall season, when we lost, we talked about why we had lost that game and worked on it at the next practice,” she said. “In the beginning of our season, we were figuring out how we play with each other and that really helped going into the league.”
During her senior campaign, the Bears finished 12-7 in all matches and 7-0 in league action but ended the season on a sour note.
In a CIF Southern Section Division III home encounter versus Esperanza in the first round, the Bears lost a heartbreaker 15-13 in double overtime.
Cook is aware of what Robles added to the team. “Clarisa was a total pleasure to coach over her high school career,” he offered. “She was a leader, and her talent was apparent.”
Cook continued: “She helped take us far while she was at Burroughs, with multiple CIF runs, and a league championship,” he said. “She will excel at her time in college, and I wish her the best.”
For every victory, there are going to be setbacks, but those losses can also be helpful.
“I learned that water polo is a sport of teamwork, and you cannot be selfish if you want your team to be successful,” Robles pointed out. “It is also very mentally and physically challenging, but with a team full of support you learn to love the game even more after facing these challenges.”
Everything in life is a matter of taking steps, some big and some small, so it is with water polo for Robles.
“Playing water polo at Burroughs was a great experience for me,” she said. “It was one of the many reasons as to why I chose to pursue this sport and continue my career in college as well.”
Robles, whose mother Marianna and father were always seated in the stands watching their daughter play the game she loves, went on: “I think I’m ready for college water polo because I’m very eager to grow as a player and as a teammate as well,” she said. “Some assets that I hope to bring to the team are being a team player and helping in any ways that I can.”
Though high school is over, college will be yet another challenge for Robles, who reflected on her four years at Burroughs.
“I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to continue the sport that I love in college along with getting a great education,” she said. “I’m very excited for all the memories and friends that I will make. Getting to experience being a student-athlete is something I’m excited for as well.”