High School Male Athlete of the Week: Chase Dodd lighting it up for Huntington Beach water polo

Los Angeles Times Sports 1 week ago

Chase Dodd is an exciting water polo player to watch, and a lot of that comes down to the aggressive nature of the Huntington Beach High junior attacker.

Dodd never sees the bench and his motor seemingly never stops running. He is always looking to push the counterattack.

“I try to put as much pressure on the person as possible, to make him make an error, so I can take advantage of that error,” Dodd said. “I play all-or-nothing … I’m trying to do everything at once.”

Dodd said sometimes he needs to just slow down, but coach Sasa Branisavljevic would rather have someone who is overaggressive at times than not aggressive enough. Dodd’s hard work has earned him a spot on the USA Water Polo men’s youth national team.

Over the summer, Dodd was part of the group that took gold at the UANA Youth Pan American Championships in Trinidad & Tobago. In high school, he’s an emerging player on an emerging Oilers squad.

Branisavljevic has known about Dodd’s talent for a while. He coached him on the Vanguard Aquatics 12-and-under club team that won the Junior Olympics in 2014.

Five years later, Dodd has turned into one of the best attackers in the CIF Southern Section.

“The guy shows up every single day with incomparable grit and just passion to get ahead,” Branisalvjevic said. “The challenge and the heat that he brings on each day is something that I admire. The way that translates in a game is that he’s never taken out. He pushes the counterattack every single possession and plays his heart out no matter who we’re playing against. He’s the most consistent guy on our team, I’d say.”

Huntington Beach (14-5, 2-1 in the Surf League), ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2, has its most talented team in Dodd’s three years in the program. The Oilers play No. 2 Newport Harbor in a key league match on Wednesday at 6:20 p.m. at Corona del Mar High.

Dodd and the Oilers were competitive against the Sailors (3-0 in league) in the teams’ first league meeting, though Newport Harbor pulled away for a 7-4 win at home on Sept. 25. But Huntington Beach has picked up some big wins this season. The Oilers beat No. 3 Los Angeles Loyola and No. 8 Mater Dei on their way to a strong third-place finish at the South Coast Tournament.

Last weekend, Huntington Beach won the S&R Sport tournament at Irvine’s Woollett Aquatics Center. Dodd scored six goals in an 11-8 semifinal win over Foothill, and four goals in a 21-12 title match win over Woodbridge that avenged a loss to the Warriors earlier this season.

Huntington Beach sophomore center James Rozolis-Hill scored seven goals in the final. And junior left-hander Ethan Crooks, the son of longtime Edison girls’ soccer coach Kerry Crooks, has also had some big games for the Oilers.

Add in senior leadership from goalkeeper Jacob Pyle, UCLA-bound attacker Cooper Haddad, set guard Josh Bowman and attacker Garrett Lee, and the Oilers have talent across the board. Huntington Beach has rebounded from last year, which saw the Oilers go 1-5 in league and fail to qualify for the playoffs.

The rematch with Newport Harbor on Wednesday night is one that Dodd has circled on his calendar.

“It’s going to be a big test of what our team is going to be able to do this year,” he said. “If we can challenge them, then that means that we can challenge anyone in CIF … We’re really trying to strive to get first in CIF. We’re not striving to get fifth or sixth in CIF. We’re trying to get first.”

Chase Dodd is also looking forward to next season, when his younger brother Ryder, currently in eighth grade, will likely enroll at Huntington Beach High. Ryder Dodd, also an attacker, is a member of the cadet national team.

“I’m striving to play with him next year,” Chase Dodd said. “It would be kind of fun.”

But Dodd, a second-year starter, also wants his junior year to end with more fun memories. He can help the Oilers earn them with his play in the water. Branisavljevic compares Dodd to Ethan Wojciechowski, the senior captain on the Oilers’ 2016 CIF Division 1 finalist team who went on to play at Cal.

“He doesn’t talk much,” Branisavljevic said. “He’s a doer and he will get the job done. He just brings the heat. He’s an engine.”

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Chase Dodd

Born: April 5, 2003

Hometown: Long Beach

Height: 6 feet 1

Weight: 180 pounds

Sport: Water polo

Year: Junior

Coach: Sasa Branisavljevic

Favorite food: Cheeseburgers

Favorite movie: “Dust to Glory”

Favorite athletic moment: Helping the Southern Pacific Zone win the USA Water Polo Olympic Development Program national championship at the development level in 2017.

Week in review: Dodd helped Huntington Beach win the S&R Sport tournament at Irvine’s Woollett Aquatics Center. He scored six goals in an 11-8 semifinal win over Foothill and four goals in a 21-12 title match win over Woodbridge on Oct. 5.

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