By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Kirk Lazaruk had the Midas Touch at Palisades High last year. In the fall he assisted head coach Adam Blakis as the boys water polo team won its seventh City Section championship in a row and went on to capture its first-ever Southern California Regional title, finishing a stellar 30-4.
In the winter, Lazaruk piloted the girls program to its first City title, a program-record 18 straight wins, a 25-3 record and a berth in the Southern California Regional Division II playoffs.
Lazaruk was a finalist for state water polo coach of the year, so it is no surprise that he was recruited to coach Team USA at this summer’s 15th European Maccabi Games in Budapest, Hungary.
Lazaruk will be coaching a select team of juniors from across the United States and two of the starters on his team are from Pacific Palisades: Maximo Speiser of Palisades High and Zach Hausner of Brentwood School.
Team USA will play Hungary, Brazil and Israel and Lazaruk said the host nation is the favorite. The competition begins August 4.
“We’re not favored to do well since we’ve never played together but we’ve got a shot at a medal,” Lazaruk said. “The roster was based on what programs the kids played for and I had a voice in the selection. I then contacted their coaches, many of whom I knew as teammates on a specific national team or competitors in the water). Part of the barrier to practicing is that the boys were competing for their clubs at the Junior Olympics. The other challenge was that the players are from all over—locally, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Bay Area, Florida and the northeast.”
Speiser enjoyed a stellar junior season in the pool, racking up 48 goals (second on the team), assisting on 19 others and tallying 35 steals in 28 games while helping the Dolphins defend their City title. He scored a team-high six game-winning goals and tallied a season-best seven goals in the Division III regional semifinals versus Valley View.
Hausner, meanwhile, was a scoring machine for Brentwood. His junior year was defined most by his dominant performance in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs. He recorded five goals, four steals and two assists in the Eagles’ 10-9 loss to California of Whittier in the championship game in Irvine. Three days earlier, he scored seven goals in the semifinals against La Palma Kennedy. Hausner propelled the Eagles to a 22-8 record and the Prep League title in the fall.
In the 2018-19 school year, Palisades’ boys and girls teams went a combined 55-7, finished unbeaten in league play, set school records for wins in one season and swept City for the first time.