Burroughs' goalkeeper Ahsha Earwood is one of three returning players for the Indians.

Burroughs' goalkeeper Ahsha Earwood is one of three returning players for the Indians. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / November 16, 2012)

Rebuilding might be the optimal word for the Burbank High and Burroughs girls' water polo teams this season.

Burbank has only two returning players — hole/set Abby Glaessner and goalkeeper Jasmine Ellman — and Burroughs has three coming back, drivers Cheyenne Morrison and Sierra Marroquin and goalkeeper Ahsha Earwood.

The inexperience on both squads does not mean that each team is lowering expectations.

“There is no reason why we can't get first [in the Pacific League], as long as everyone is working hard,” Ellman said.

Burroughs also expects a successful season.

“We plan on turning heads, even though we're not the same team,” Indian Coach Danny Garcia said. “I think we're going to surprise a few people. I expect them to play at the highest level.

“With three returning players, it doesn't mean I'm going to expect anything less. I'm still looking for us to get in the top four in league.”

Garcia will lean on Earwood, an All-CIF Southern Section Division V third-team selection in 2011, to anchor his team.

Earwood played a critical role on last year's team, which went 20-5 and placed second in league behind Crescenta Valley before advancing to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Earwood had 268 saves to go along with 52 steals and 16 assists

But that playoff squad lost top scorer Sam Buliavac, who was also an All-CIF third-team selection, to graduation. Along with scoring 137 goals with a 70% accuracy rate, Buliavac also tallied 40 steals, 26 assists and drew an impressive 52 ejections last season.

Without a standout scorer returning, Garcia will rely on his defense to win matches and needs Earwood to be exceptional in goal.

“It helps tons to have her,” said Garcia, who led the program to its first-ever home playoff match victory in 2011, when it defeated Elsinore, 11-6, in a first-round contest. “She's extremely strong. We're going to base our defense off her. She's going to be our saving grace. I want to create our defense around her.”

Burbank Coach Kristina Garcia — no relation to her Indian counterpart — has tried to build her team with developing the Bulldogs' fundamentals in mind.

Burbank did not make the playoffs last year.

“They crave that knowledge,” said Garcia, who led the boys' program to a second-place finish in league in the fall in her first year at the helm, and plans on similar success in her first stint with the girls' team. “They are not as experienced as other teams, but the way they are disciplined. It's all about, 'Coach, teach me, teach me, teach me.'”

Her goal is to prove her team's doubters wrong.

Garcia knows other teams might underestimate her team's potential, but she is determined to mold her squad into a strong one, even though it might take time.

“Getting second or third in league would be awesome,” she said. “Do I think we could do that? Absolutely.

“I'm working to build this program from scratch.”

Glaessner, a senior, also plans on doing well in her final season.

“We're going to work hard,” she said. “We want to do well, and it's more important to know we're playing well.”