Three years ago, Foothill’s boys’ varsity water polo team made its debut during the inaugural season of Dragons athletics. At this time, the Class of 2018 was freshmen. Flash forward to Thursday: the last remaining players of the inaugural squad, were set to play their final regular season home game as a Dragon.
The matchup pitted Foothill against the Fillmore High School Flashes at the Ventura Aquatic Center. The Dragons have had a successful history against the Flashes, including their matchup earlier this season. On Aug. 20, Foothill defeated Fillmore 12-1 at Fillmore High School. The change of venues did not affect the results; the Dragons jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, rolling to a 17-3 victory.
Being that it was Senior Night, head coach David Wallace announced the Dragons’ roster over the microphone, saving the seniors for last. When the seven members of the Class of 2018 were announced, a round of applause was given. Alex Abele, Devon Pennington, Richie Brandi, Garrett Mann, Nico Parker, Andres Coppa and Michael Aguilar were acknowledged by the crowd.
The game was put away rather early in the first quarter, as Foothill established their dominance from start to finish. The opening quarter produced nine Dragons’ goals, opposed to just one goal for Fillmore. The nine scores were from nine different players: Coppa, Mann, Parker, Pennington, Ben Clinton ‘19, Zion Denzel ‘19, Miles Lagomarsino ‘20, Evan Wallace ‘20 and Devon Robb ‘20. Due to the early lead, Wallace was able to rest the seniors. He pulled them from the game after 30 seconds to give the reserves some playing time.
The Dragons took their foot off the gas pedal at the start of the second quarter. Working with a 9-1 lead, they were able to remove their starting unit from the game and play their top-end junior varsity squad. Rather than being aggressive, Foothill played conservative during the rest of the first half. There were plenty of scoring opportunities, but the Dragons respectfully held the ball for a majority of the time. The only score for either side in the second quarter was from Patrick Bello ‘19, stretching Foothill’s lead to 10-1 before halftime.
The third and fourth quarters featured an all-junior varsity lineup for the Dragons. Over the course of the second half, Fillmore managed two goals against Foothill’s third-string goalkeeper. However, it did not make a difference; the Dragons compiled another seven goals in the last two quarters. Foothill ran the clock out from the start of the fourth quarter, resulting in a mostly anti-climatic 17-3 victory.
Mann, one of the seven seniors, had plenty of emotions after playing his last home game. He described the team’s compatibility and affinity to be one of his favorite aspects that he would miss the most.
“I just like how the whole team [is] all friends,” he said. “Everyone on JV and varsity, we are all buds, so it’s really enjoyable to play.”
Speaking on behalf of himself and the team, Bello believes the seniors have had a major impact on the younger players.
“They’ve always been interesting people to play with,” he explained. “Everyone is kind of like brothers in a way [and the seniors have always] had a leadership type of role.”
For the first time in program history, the Dragons have clinched a CIF Playoffs berth. Their seed has yet to be determined; and regardless of the outcome, Mann is grateful for the opportunity to play in a big game.
“I’m just looking forward to actually going there […] no matter if we win or lose,” he said.
Mann also credited Wallace with the team’s recent success, saying that Wallace “has been great” and is the reason “why we are where we are right now [and] winning games.”
For now, the Dragons will play the waiting game. The team will have to wait for a few weeks for the CIF Division VI bracket to be released, but the team still has incentives to play out the remainder of the season with full effort. Although first place in the Tri-Valley league has already been locked up by Malibu High School, Foothill will attempt to claim the runner-up spot against Carpinteria High School and Villanova Preparatory School.