Knights’ deft defense leads to CIF title

Bishop’s School Knights Girls Water Polo team wins CIF Open Division

The Bishop’s School Knights Girls Water Polo team won the CIF Open Division title Feb. 28 after defeating the Cathedral Catholic High Dons 7-6. It is the Knights’ fifth championship in a row.

This year’s tournament victory was achieved after two hard-fought matches against familiar teams. The Knights had to come from behind to beat the Dons on Saturday night, as well as defeat a young, talented La Jolla High School team in the semi-finals on Feb. 26, both matches at La Jolla’s Coggan Family Aquatic Complex.

Everyone in attendance for Saturday night’s finals match knew the game would be a nail-biter after a scoreless first quarter. Bishop’s coach Doug Peabody said it was “scary.”

Fortunately for Peabody, and the Bishop’s supporters, the team was ready to step up for the big moment. None more so than senior goalie Maddy Kafka-Asper, who was the primary factor behind Cathedral Catholic High’s inability to score in the first quarter.

One of the Knight’s critical defensive tactics throughout the game was to prevent the Dons from scoring from two meters, the offensive position closest to the goal. This led to several Dons shots from the perimeter, and it was Kafka-Asper’s responsibility to block them.

“We left her out to dry a bunch,” Peabody said of his goalie.

The strategy spoke volumes about the team’s confidence in Kafka-Asper, who ended the game with nine blocks, and the game ball from Peabody. “I believe the goalie is the most important player in the pool,” Peabody said. “If she can’t play big in big minutes, then we can’t play big as a team.”

The game finally opened up in the second quarter, with some goals on both sides off of man-up situations and counter-attacks. After the teams traded goals for those seven minutes, the Knights found themselves down 4-3 at halftime to the Dons, who were well disciplined on defense throughout the game.

Similar to Bishop’s, Cathedral Catholic’s usual defense was a well-run press that inevitably would devolve into a crash into two meters in order to minimize the threat of Bishop’s sophomore Georgia Gilmore, who scored two goals.

Gilmore’s value can’t just be measured in statistics. Before the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the teams were tied at five goals apiece, Gilmore told her teammates to give their best effort. “I’m a naturally competitive person, I want to try to leave all my energy in the pool, and I want everyone else to do the same. If we all leave everything in the pool then there’s no way we can lose,” Gilmore said.

Peabody said that there are a few players that are effective motivators on the team, and that their value can’t be underestimated. “They have a command and demand about them that says, ‘Let’s all rise together,’” she said.

“It’s definitely a necessity,” Kafka-Asper said of Gilmore’s attitude. ”It gives us a second wind. We knew we could do it. It’s just once we started losing, you could tell we got a little more discouraged, so we definitely need people like that.”

Against the Vikings

That game mentality was a driving force for the Bishop’s School Knights throughout the season, and was especially evident during their semi-finals game against the La Jolla High Vikings on Thursday night.

In a heated game where both benches received yellow penalty cards, the Knights were able to put shots in the back of the net, where the Vikings were shooting off the bars or further wide all evening.

There were stretches where La Jolla seemed threatening. The Knights were up only 3-1 at halftime thanks to some strong defense by the Vikings, but Bishop’s was able to put away the game later on. The final score was 8-4.

“What it came down to is that we weren’t putting away the shots that we needed to,” said La Jolla High coach Keller Felt. “We had opportunities and we didn’t quite follow through. They were there, but they were just missed.”

The first-year coach said she was proud of her team, and is optimistic about the young team for next year. “Everybody grew throughout this season, and I look forward to continue coaching,” Felt said.

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