La Jolla drops semifinal match to Coronado while The Bishop's School tops Cathedral Catholic to advance to CIF final
By Rick LeBeau
On perhaps the most exciting night of high school water polo ever in San Diego, fans of the sport got to witness two compelling games played for a berth in the Division II CIF Finals. Both games were decided at the wire with identical scores of 13-12.
Leading off the evening’s two CIF semifinal matches, La Jolla’s youth-laden team took on No. 1 seeded Coronado. The veteran Islanders peppered Viking goalie Matt Allen early and often in the first quarter, but Matt was able to make several of his 12 saves in that first period. Coronado still managed to score three goals, but each time they did, the Vikings answered and the teams went into the second period tied 3-3.
The Islanders kept up their scoring pace in the second quarter, while shutting out La Jolla. This left the Vikings fighting to come back from deficits as large as five goals in the second half. With 4:37 left in the game, the Vikings found themselves on the short end of a 12-7 score. Suddenly their defense stiffened, and began creating turnovers that led to a flurry of goals. Brandon Flores, playing most of the final three quarters with two fouls, was busy frustrating the Coronado goalie by either scoring or assisting every time down the pool in the final quarter of play.
The Vikings were once again down by three goals with just over two minutes to play, when Flores scored on a rebound. On the next possession for Coronado, Flores made a steal, passed the ball to TJ Pugmire, then got the ball back and scored on a blistering shot from 7 meters to narrow the gap to two goals. The crowd was in a frenzy as the Vikings brought the ball up tank after a timeout with 45 seconds remaining.
However, a most untimely turnover allowed the Islanders to gain control of the ball and run out the, clock to escape with the 13-12 decision. Brandon Flores led all scorers with seven goals; Zach Nelson and TJ Pugmire each scored two for the Vikings. Eiten Peled had four goals for Coronado.
Coach Tom Atwell was very proud of his young Viking team, even in defeat. He summed up the game and the season in one statement, “The fight and heart this team showed tonight was what I loved most about this team all season”.
A half an hour later, The Bishop’s School faced off with Cathedral Catholic. The two teams had split their season series, with Cathedral winning their last matchup two weeks earlier. Both teams came out with high levels of intensity, and the offenses immediately began taking advantage of defensive lapses. In a classic match that had the crowd on its feet much of the second half, Bishop’s raced out to the lead, only to have the Dons chip away to get back in the contest.
After blanking the Dons in the second quarter, Bishop’s saw Cathedral come out blazing in the third quarter, scoring the first four goals of the half to take their first lead, 7-6. The Knights answered quickly, and were soon back up by a goal, 8-7 at the end of the quarter. Not to be outdone, the Dons scored another pair to take a 9-8 lead early in the fourth quarter. Naturally, the Knights countered with two more tallies, and the Dons followed up by tying the score late in regulation time. Both teams had chances to win before overtime, but neither could put home the game winner before the 4th quarter buzzer sounded.
The crisp night air was electric as the teams entered the first period of overtime knotted at 10 apiece. Bishop’s scored first, but Cathedral scored on a shot from 8 meters to tie the game once more. The teams switched sides and went into the second period of overtime, only to see that period end tied at 12 each. The fans for the two teams were almost as worn out as the players at this point, but the boys weren’t going to let the fans leave without a little more suspense.
On they went, into sudden death overtime. Once again, both teams found open shots, but again neither could tally the game winner. Both goalies came up huge in that first 3-minute sudden death period, denying point blank would-be game winning shots.
Finally, after four quarters of regulation and three and a half periods of overtime, Viktor Wrobel was fouled outside the 5-meter line. As he had successfully done previously in the game, he scooped the ball off the water and fired unimpeded at the goal. A split second later, the whistle sounded, signaling the final goal for the Knights, who survived to advance to the CIF finals against Coronado.
The Knights had four players with multiple goals, led by Viktor Wrobel with his four, including the game winner. Tommy Higginson and Blake Lee both had three for Bishop’s, and Sean Barlow had a pair. The Dons’ scoring was led by Jordan Colina and Bryce Hoerman, who each had 4 goals.