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Bishop’s dominates Coronado to win CIF water polo crown

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By Rick LeBeau

Contributor

For more than a decade, Bishop’s and Coronado have played each other in the finals of the CIF play-offs in boys’ water polo. After their 11-year streak as opponents in the finals was interrupted last year, the two teams resumed their annual quest for the championship in

Division III, arguably the strongest in the county this year.

In the end, it was Bishop’s again, with a 10-5 victory to capture their seventh title in nine years.

Although Bishops had already won handily against the Islanders in their two previous meetings this year, all bets were off when these teams clashed in the finals. Intensity and emotion permeated every minute of play, both in the pool and out, as close to 1,500 fans packed the stands at Coggan Family Aquatic Complex, braving cold winds and occasional cloud bursts.

For Coronado, any chance of winning the contest would rest on their ability to contain the powerful scoring duo of Drew Hoffenberg and Matt Michalko, who had shared high-scoring honors all year for the Knights. In the first quarter, Coronado achieved the success they needed on defense as they held Bishop’s scoreless. However, Bishop’s is no slouch on defense either; coaches Jim Fales and Doug Peabody always emphasize relentless defensive pressure, which resulted in a first quarter stalemate.

With neither team able to break into the scoring column in the opening stanza, it appeared that goals might be rare on this night. Finally, Garrett Smerdon of Coronado broke the drought with a goal during a 6-on-5 man advantage just 17 seconds into the second quarter.

From there, though, Bishop’s scored four goals in a four-minute span, capped by a backhand goal by the big senior, Michalko, with 57 seconds left before halftime. Coronado notched a goal on a 5-meter penalty shot with a few ticks remaining in the half to close within two.

In the third quarter, Coronado again scored first to get within one, but that only seemed to light a fire under the Knights, who again scored four goals in the quarter, led by Drew Hoffenberg with his three goals.

The fourth quarter was more of the show by Hoffenberg, who left no doubt about his offensive prowess, scoring on a lob and a counter-attack to put the Knights up 10-4. Coronado scored the final goal of the game in the waning moments, but it was too little, too late. Bishop’s had made a powerful case for themselves as the strongest water polo team in San Diego in 2010.

Drew Hoffenberg led all scorers with six goals on the night. Michalko had two powerful goals out of the center position as well.