By Rick Lebeau
In a key match-up of Division III water polo rivals with implications for CIF seedings on the line, Cathedral Catholic squared off against La Jolla in their second match of the season last week.
Playing at Coggan Family Aquatic Complex, the Vikings looked to avenge their earlier loss at the Dons’ home pool.
The Vikings got off to a slow start, allowing Cody Smith to score for the Dons on their first possession of the game. Trailing by two late in the first quarter, the Vikings managed to convert a steal by Aaron Robbins and pulled within a goal, 2-1.
Despite the play in goal of freshman Matt Allen, the Vikings were unable to get even. They fell behind at half, 4-1.
Following the break, the Dons won the sprint and took possession of the ball. A quick steal and a pass up tank to a streaking TJ Pugmire led to a goal 20 seconds into the quarter and a momentum shift in favor of the Vikings. Moments later, Pugmire earned a penalty shot, which he converted to bring the Vikes back within one, 4-3. TJ would score again just before the end of the quarter to narrow the gap to 5-4, but the Dons found an open shot in front of the cage with two-tenths of a second remaining in the quarter to deflate the charge by La Jolla.
The fourth quarter got off to a rocky start for La Jolla, as the Dons capitalized on passing errors to convert two early goals and extend their lead to 8-4. The Vikings put together a mild rally late in the game with goals by Zach Nelson, Cole Martinez, and finally Brandon Flores with 6 seconds to go in the game. That made the final tally 9-7 in favor of Cathedral Catholic, solidifying their position as the third-ranked team in the county among Division III water polo powers. La Jolla will remain solidly at No. 4.
Coronado and Bishops will battle for the top seed the rest of the season, after the Knights knocked off the top-ranked Islanders in Coronado in sudden death overtime Oct. 19.
Cody Smith finished the game as high scorer with four goals for Cathedral. Pugmire had three goals for La Jolla.