The bleachers were packed with energetic Dragons fans at the Parrish Pool at Buena High School for the boys’ varsity water polo team’s second home game of the season. Although they rarely ever play at Parrish Pool, it serves as a home game by technicality due to the unavailability of their main facility, the Ventura Aquatic Center. On Friday, Sept. 22, the Dragons took on their league opponents, the Rams of Cate High School. Aided by some spectacular offense, Foothill cruised to a 14-5 victory, evening their league record at 2-2 and putting themselves squarely in the mix for a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) playoffs berth.
Once the first quarter commenced, Foothill took control of the game and rarely, if ever, lost momentum. Within one minute, Richie Brandi ‘18 put the Dragons on the scoreboard, giving them a lead that they would not relinquish. The goals continued to fall in a free-flowing manner, as Foothill tallied on four more goals by Tyler Liddell ‘19, Nikolai Haines ‘20 and two goals from Nico Parker ‘18. The Rams finally scored their first goal with a minute left in the quarter, but it was nullified by Haines’s second score of the game.
Working with a 6-1 lead to start the second quarter, the Dragons continued their offensive barrage. During the seven minute period, Haines and Garrett Mann ‘18 scored. In addition, Parker added two more goals, slicing through the Cate defense to push the Dragons’ tally to 10. The Rams were able to get one shot past Foothill goalkeeper Alex Abele ‘18 in the quarter, yet the 10-2 Dragons lead suggested that this contest was all but decided.
Liddell, when reflecting on the halftime lead, cracked a smile and explained that a big lead is unfamiliar territory for the team, but he believes it was no coincidence.
“It’s a bit of a new phenomenon for us, winning by such large numbers and so I think we were able to keep the pressure on because we had a lot of support from our coaches and they were able to sub people in and get fresh people going,” he explained. “We’ve been putting in a lot of hours and a lot of work and I think it showed.”
The third quarter featured mostly the reserve players, as both teams rested their starters due to the situation of the game. However, it didn’t prevent Foothill from extending their lead. Once the starters gradually began to work their way back into the game, the Dragons struck twice, courtesy of Liddell and Haines. The Rams, meanwhile, had a plethora of opportunities to cut the Dragons’ lead, including a penalty shot against Abele. Yet Abele was able to make an crucial save, keeping Cate scoreless throughout the third quarter while Foothill held a 12-2 advantage.
In the final quarter, the Dragons were arguably outplayed for the first time all game. The Rams converted on three shots on goal opposed to the Dragons’ two scores in the quarter. Foothill’s time management tactics, however, iced the game and sealed a 14-5 statement victory.
Although the game was by no means close, Abele explained his aggressive mindset which helps the Dragons remain “the dominant team.”
“I don’t care if we’re up by a hundred to one, or up by one, or we’re down one,” he said. “We play like we’re trying to improve and trying to get better; we play with composure.”
Overall, head coach David Wallace believed the team did a “very nice job” in regards to the Rams’ best player, which he noted as one of the keys to the victory.
“We didn’t give him a lot of good looks [at the goal],” he said. “We took him out of their offense very early in the game.”
Next up on the docket for the Dragons is a home game against the Villanova Preparatory School Wildcats. As it is another league game, it will have significant CIF playoff implications.
Abele believes that the key to the game against the Wildcats “is to play our best, because we cannot play better than our best.”
“In all seriousness, it’s about playing with your heart and playing with your head, being smart and making the most of every play,” he continued. “I’m a firm believer that energy comes from within, and we’ve got to take that energy to [the Wildcats].”