MORAGA -- At the beginning of each season, the Campolindo High girls water polo team has a long conversation about season goals.
As one of Northern California's top teams for several years running, they talk about winning another North Coast Section championship and doing well at other prestigious tournaments. But that's not where the discussion ends.
"One of our goals is to set the example at school to be the team that everyone wants to be a part of," said coach Kim Everist.
While that includes having success in the pool, the Cougars also trake pride in doing well and the classroom and treating each other well, among other things.
It's those qualities, not just their two section championships in the last three seasons, that the Cougars want to be known for.
"We're a family," said senior Natalie Seidemann, who was new to the school district when she came to Campolindo as a freshman. "When I didn't know anybody my team was there for me. You're always looking out for each other. We treat each other like we've known each other our entire lives when really we've only known each other a few seasons."
"I want it to be something bigger than Campolindo water polo," Everist said. "I want them to go to their next program and feel like there's something missing form their life."
As for performing at a high level in the pool, the Cougars are doing a fine job of that. With four returning starters from last year's NCS Division II championship squad, Campolindo has lost just once (to defending Division I champion San Ramon Valley) and has won most games by a sizeable margin.
Leading the way are Annika Jensen and Seidemann. The seniors were the Cougars' leading scorers a season ago and Jensen is the reigning Diablo Foothill Athletic League MVP. Both are being recruited by top college programs.
Jensen and Seidemann each scored three goals as the Cougars opened Diablo Foothill Athletic League play with a 10-8 win over Miramonte on Oct. 2.
Goalkeeper Maddie Tagg and Hannah Buck also return to the starting lineup. Rachel Lewin, who has taken on more offensive responsibility, Brooke Presten and freshman Kari Jensen round out the starters.
While the starting lineup is pretty experienced, the bench is less seasoned with nine players on varsity for the first time.
So how do the Cougars stay good year after year?
It's a combination of reasons.
They have a veteran coach in Everist, who recently took a coaching position with the Canadian women's national team. She says the water polo program gets strong support from the Campolindo administration.
Plus, high standards have been established with the Cougars having made so many deep NCS playoff runs in a row. The last time Campolindo didn't advance to a NCS championship game was 2008.
"There's a legacy that's been established," Everist said. "The seniors want to continue the same legacy for their senior year, so instilling that tradition on the rest of the team has been something really important."