Photos by Thomas Forman
Boys’ water polo capped off its season on Wednesday, October 25, defeating La Cañada 11-6 and improving its second-place record to 8-2 on Senior Night. The dominant effort showcased South Pas’ depth, as the squad received significant contributions from a variety of team members.
After some bad luck enabled La Cañada to grab an early lead, sophomore Evan Kowal began his incredible performance with a skip shot that evaded the right arm of the Spartan goalie. The Tigers and La Cañada traded chances, until senior captain Jasper Lee strided forward, looked one way, and fired the ball into the other side of the net. Moments later, senior Gabe Davidson delivered a gorgeous pass across the entire pool to Kowal, who pumped faked several times before launching a strike into the bottom right corner of the goal. The first period ended with a score of 3-1.
Seconds into the second quarter, freshman goalie Liam Markus made an impressive save, then threw a pinpoint pass to freshman Dominic Kline in transition. Unfortunately, Kline’s lob nicked the top bar, and the Spartans proceeded in the opposite direction, eventually scoring on a lob of their own. An ejection on La Cañada allowed freshman Maven Palacios to rifle a skip shot that bounced under the Spartan goalie’s left arm with the man advantage, increasing the Tigers’ lead to 4-2. Following a Spartan goal with the man advantage, Kline rocketed a powerful shot that overpowered the La Cañada goalie. The squads continued to score, as the Spartans fired a shot to the top right corner and Kowal completed his trifecta of goals with a bullet to the bottom right edge of the net. Kline continued to have an impact on offense, as he blew past Spartans defenders, and fired a skip shot from the left point to put South Pas up 7-4. With under five seconds remaining in the half, Markus blocked a long shot by the Spartan goalie, only to launch a strike across the length of the pool and into the net. Because Markus released the shot before time elapsed, the goal counted, much to the chagrin of La Cañada.
In the third period, South Pas retained more possession than the Spartans, resulting in commanding the vast majority of the second half. After connecting with Davidson once again, Kowal continued his dominance, slipping the ball past the Spartan goalie. The 9-4 tally would sustain for the remainder of the third period, as the Tigers stole countless balls and forced several turnovers, refusing to allow La Cañada to establish a consistent offensive rhythm. The Spartans adapted their defense; they pulled a defender back and had him attempt to block shots, leaving the South Pas driver open in the middle of the pool.
Junior Philip Lee extended the Tigers’ lead to 10-4 as he waltzed in behind the Spartan defense and pushed the ball past the La Cañada goalie. Both goalies then proceeded to put on a clinic, as they saved numerous strikes for roughly half the period. Eventually, the Spartans broke through for their first time in the half, as they spun and fired into the goal twice from the left side. Finishing off the season, Davidson fired a bullet into the bottom left corner of the net. The game ended with a score of 11-6.
“This game being senior day was special for all of us, “ Kowal said. “I’m glad we all could help the seniors get a great last home win and feel prepared going into CIF.”
Considering the brilliance of the Tigers’ defense throughout the season, having several weapons at coach Michael Gonzalez’s disposal could be a game-changing factor for the squad when battling against stout CIF defenses. The fantastic effort on both sides of the ball should make for a fun memory for the graduating seniors.
Boys’ water polo will discover its 2017 CIF-SS slot and first opponent when the tournament bracket is released on Saturday, October 28, at 10:00 am.