Kyle Eoff plans to follow in the footsteps of his father — and others who have been influential in his water polo career — onto the pool deck as a coach someday.
And that doesn’t surprise Clovis High co-coach Matt Berry, who relied heavily on Eoff’s leadership during a Central Section championship season for the Cougars.
“Once every couple years you get the confidence in a kid who can be the coach in the pool,” Berry said of the son of former Sunnyside coach and Fresno State player Rick Eoff. “He was that guy for us. He was definitely a luxury to have.”
Previously more of a supporting cast member, Eoff stepped into a starring role as a senior for a Clovis team that went 23-7, won the Tri-River Athletic Conference title outright and captured the school’s sixth Division I championship. He is The Bee’s Boys Water Polo Player of the Year.
“He’s always been a solid defender, but he really extended on that this season,” said Buchanan co-coach Nic Maes, whose team had won the previous two section titles. “His playmaking ability really set him apart. He made that team run.
“The very best players are the ones who make everyone around him better. They were the best team in the section because of him and because of his leadership.”
Eoff — who had 44 goals on 45% shooting accuracy, 47 assists and 21 exclusions en route to earning TRAC MVP honors — delivered when Clovis needed him most.
His no-look, back-handed spin shot provided the go-head goal in the Cougars’ 13-12 victory against Clovis West in the section semifinals. In the final, he assisted on Garrett Couchman’s winning goal in overtime then sprinted to the other end of the pool and prevented Clovis North star Carson Ivancovich from getting off a shot that preserved top-seeded Clovis’ 11-10 victory over the third-seeded Broncos.
“You always hear about the big players, and it was kinda cool to be like that on this team,” Eoff said. “But it is a lot of pressure on you. Not only do you have to tell people what to do and be confident in that, but you have to back it up. I accepted that role that I had to be a leader and play consistently at a top level.”
Eoff, who had 17 goals and 29 assists as a junior, gained a major boost in confidence over the summer after making the Central California Olympic Development Program club team based in Davis. Tips learned from coach Tracy Stapleton allowed Eoff to develop into a player who was voted a co-captain for Clovis along with returning leading scorer Connor Beers.
“That really helped me to play at my best level and to know my teammates were behind me and saw me as one of their leaders,” Eoff said.
Berry said Eoff blossomed into a go-to player through tireless work and constant studying of the game at the high school, college, Olympic and professional levels. They are traits that will serve the Fresno Pacific-bound Eoff well as he seeks to fulfill his plan.
“A goal of mine is to become a coach one day and help others enjoy the game of water polo,” Eoff said. “I’m inspired by Dad and other coaches who have played an important part in my life. I’d like to do that for others.”