Photos by Thomas Forman
Boys’ water polo outplayed Montebello in the second round of CIF, defeating the Oilers by a score of 10-7 on Thursday, November 2. After a slow start, the squad’s high-octane offense kicked into gear and the defense showed why it allowed the fewest goals of any Rio Hondo League team during league. With the victory, the Tigers advance to their first CIF quarterfinalist appearance since 2013, but that was a Division III 16-team tournament instead of a Division IV 32-team tournament.
At the outset, the formidable Tiger offense wasn’t moving as smoothly as usual; the players’ inability to create separation between defenders prevented fluid passing and forced lackluster shots. Fortunately, the South Pas defense kept the Tigers in the game, as the high-quality Montebello offense only managed to score due to foul calls. Two and a half minutes into the game, the Oilers took advantage of a distracted South Pas squad, as they passed quickly to the front of the net before firing a shot into the bottom right corner for their first goal. Later, Montebello utilized pinpoint passing during a man advantage to extend their lead to 2-0. Slowly but surely, the Tigers gained momentum, as sophomore Evan Kowal resumed his impressive offensive play in CIF as he received a pass from freshman phenom Eddie Lane-Flanigan and rifled a bullet into the bottom left corner. The first quarter ended with a score of 2-1.
Lane-Flanigan followed with a powerful skip shot into the top left corner from the left side to tie the game. Montebello didn’t waste a second regaining a 3-2 lead, however, as they slipped past the Tigers defense and capitalized moments later. The teams began to trade chances until the Oilers increased their lead to 4-2 with a shot to the right section of the net. Freshman Dominic Kline and Flanigan combined for a give-and-go with Kline delivering and lasering a strike into the bottom right corner. On the ensuing possession, Kline stole the ball and swam half the length of the pool before launching a skip shot to the top right corner to tie the game at four. After receiving a transition pass, Lane-Flanigan gave the Tigers their first lead of the game when he strided forward on the right side and rocketed a cross cage strike. At the end of the half, Montebello tied the game at five when the Oilers got past the South Pas defense and fired a hard shot from the right side.
On the first possession of the second half, Lane-Flanigan found a prime scoring spot from roughly four meters out and overpowered the Montebello goalie to complete his hat trick. Working to maintain South Pas’ lead, Lane-Flanigan displayed nice defense on an Oiler breakaway, preventing the attacker from firing an open shot. This effort and several key blocks by freshman goalie Liam Markus proved to be paramount when Montebello tied the game with a penalty shot that found the top left corner with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter. From that point forward, the South Pas players shut down Montebello’s dynamic attack, save for an Oiler goal with a man advantage. Junior Philip Lee scored a significant goal with a perfectly placed strike that slid under the left arm of the Montebello goalie. Kline resumed his offensive prowess, taking a pass from Lane-Flanigan and rocketing a bullet to give South Pas a 8-6. Moments later, Kline got his fourth goal of the game as he hurtled a shot from the left side. Montebello scored the aforementioned goal at the end of the third quarter.
Senior Owen Carlson and Kline played catch near the Montebello net before Kline put the Tigers up 10-7 with his fifth goal of the game. For the remaining 5:26, the Tiger defense continued its dominance, intercepting passes and preventing any open Montebello looks.
Boys’ water polo will face Santa Monica on Saturday, November 4. The time and location are yet to be decided. Santa Monica is ranked 7th in the Division II Southern Section standings, while Montebello is ranked 4th in those same standings.