By Dan Arritt     12/2/2016

Jeremy Laster arrived at Santa Margarita last spring with a resume most high school water polo players could only dream of achieving.

Scholarship to Stanford.

Decorated college career.

Spot on an Olympic team.

Those accomplishments made him well qualified to join the coaching staff at Santa Margarita, bringing a new and experienced voice to a program that was buried in the Trinity League shadows behind Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran.

He’s made quick work of the Eagles, leading them to the biggest upset in all of Southern California this season—a road victory at Harvard-Westlake in Studio City—and a month later their first-ever trip to the CIF-SS championships.

Laster accomplished all that with just one senior on the roster, albeit a very valuable one, and a bunch of help from the coaches he played for along the way.

“I feel like my style is a little bit from each one of them,” said Laster, a 42-year-old married father of six.

One thing Laster quickly learned after taking over the program was his name wasn’t as recognizable as he thought. Or maybe he was just getting old.

Brock Petersen, a junior on this season’s team, had never heard of Laster.

“Then I looked him up, and I found all that out,” he said. “I was super excited to be able to be coached by someone like that.”

Laster starred at San Clemente High School, leading the Tritons to their first CIF-SS championship in 1991, and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer.

He scored 1,320 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, was a National Merit Scholar finalist and was named one of five finalists for the Dial Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top scholar-athlete.

He chose to attend Stanford, where he helped the Cardinal win two NCAA championships and was a three-time All-American before graduating with a degree in Economics.

Laster played on the U.S. men’s national team from 1992-98, earning a spot on the 1996 Olympic team that competed in Atlanta.

Laster currently works as Vice President and Treasurer for Rancho Mission Viejo, a family-owned real estate development company.

His competitiveness lured him into coaching and his faith and the talent level at Santa Margarita made the job even more attractive.

He inherited a skilled group of players, but the team was made even stronger at the start of last summer, when A.J. Rossman moved to San Clemente from Mercer Island, Wash. and enrolled at Santa Margarita and Yurian Quinones transferred from nearby Tesoro. Rossman and Quinones, both juniors, make up a third of Santa Margarita’s starting lineup.

“We weren’t expecting them to come in this season, and then they came, and we were super excited,” Petersen said. “They’re both really good, great additions to the team.”

Rossman and Quinones fit right in with their ability to swim fast and counterattack the opposition. That’s the primary style of play for the Eagles and something they practice relentlessly.

“That’s why we can do it for four quarters,” Laster said. “Most teams can’t stick with us.”

Santa Margarita will sorely miss their lone senior, Jack Baumgardner, and will likely need to adjust their style without him, Laster said, but next season should be even more special.

“Jack Baumgardner, he’s an amazing kid for this team, a huge void to fill,” Petersen said. “But yea, five returning starters and an entire bench of almost all freshmen, is awesome to have back.”