Lee Strosnider Earns Water Polo Coach of the Year
He expected to be a second-year assistant, and as the season approached that's exactly what he was. But when Scott Penttila resigned as head coach just four days before the season opener, Strosnider, 28, suddenly found himself at the helm of the program.
It was his first varsity head coaching job, he had only one returning starter, and there was less than a week to prepare.
"It surprised me," Strosnider said, "but the athletic director (Steve Mitchell) brought me in and was very positive and had my back immediately. We had a meeting with the kids, and we just went from there."
Despite the difficult and unexpected circumstances, Strosnider and the Sharks excelled.
He guided Santiago to a 19-9 overall record. The Sharks were only moments away from winning the Big VIII League carousel final and picked up numerous impressive nonleague victories on their way to a postseason berth.
For helping the young, inexperienced Sharks accomplish all that in adverse conditions, Strosnider is the HS GameTime boys water polo coach of the year.
"It was difficult but the AD gave me the best advice, which was, 'Don't change Rome in a day,'" said Strosnider, a former all-CIF player at Chino Hills Ayala and a Cal Baptist graduate. "The goal was to have the kids not miss a beat and then slowly bring in a few things."
Indeed, Santiago didn't miss a beat, winning eight of its first nine in difficult tournaments. It was an announcement, a statement, that the inexperienced team with the unexpected coach would be a force.
Strosnider didn't expect to be the Sharks coach, but more than held his own when it fell to him. While Santiago didn't stage a deep playoff run, just the fact they got there easily was a huge credit to the first-year coach.
"You want the CIF title and the league finals, but looking back on it now you can see it was a success," Strosnider said. "Overall you look at the whole entire season and it was huge success for these kids. It was great."