The beauty of double-round league play is the team that wins the first matchup doesn’t always win the second one.
The defending Mesa League champion Mater Dei Catholic High School boys water polo team improved to 3-0 in league play following Wednesday’s 13-8 victory against the Eastlake Titans at the Las Palmas pool in National City.
But the win was anything but easy. The Crusaders (13-4) opened scoring on a goal by 2016 Mesa League Player of the Year Ben Brown but fell behind, 2-1, following goals by Eastlake’s Ryan Geisen and Cayden Pangelinan.
Mater Dei Catholic righted itself to lead 5-2 but the Titans promptly stormed back to trim the Crusaders’ lead to 6-4. The game remained close, with Mater Dei Catholic leading by score of 8-6 and 10-8 before pulling away with the game’s final three goals in the late stages of the contest.
The Crusaders shaded Mar Vista, 10-8, in their opening league game. Second round games are expected to be especially competitive.
“Any time you play Hilltop and Mar Vista, those are always going to be good, competitive games,” Mater Dei Catholic head coach Guy Souza explained. “ Those teams have great coaches and great kids in the program.
Eastlake is one of the top programs in the South Bay. We enjoy the competition. There are some good ball clubs in the South Bay.”
Both the Crusaders and Titans entered Wednesday’s game undefeated in league play. Eastlake defeated Hilltop, 11-6, on Sept. 27 in a game that was separated by one to two goals for most of the contest before the Titans built up a cushion in the second half.
“Eastlake is tough, they have a lot of heart,” Souza said. “You’re not going to be shake them and bury them by nine, 10, 11 goals. They stayed in the ballgame; they kept countering, making plays. They did a good job against our 2-3-4 our drop, driving guys through to find the open man. They’re well coached.
“That’s what makes league play fun, you see these good teams twice and if you don’t bring your A-game, you can be beat any day of the week.”
Brown paced Mater Dei Catholic in the win over Eastlake with six goals while teammate Juan Hernandez scored four times. Nick Salisbury contributed two goals while Fernando Margain also scored for the Crusaders.
Geisen and Jake Rose led the Titans (1-1 in league, 5-9 overall) with three goals each while Josh Randall and Pangelinan each were credited with one goal.
Dionisio Saucedo keyed MDC with 11 goalie saves while James Derrod was credited with 14 goalie saves, including five in the first quarter.
Souza has announced this will be his last year coaching the Mater Dei Catholic program, though he will continue teaching at the school.
Souza had led the Crusaders to league championships in both the Mesa League and the South Bay League during his long tenure at Mater Dei Catholic.
“It’s been a great 11 years at Mater Dei. I love the kids, I love the program, the administration and everybody has been so supportive of Mater Dei aquatics. Jeff Kruse, who has been our assistant coach now for the last four years, has really brought us a new mind-set that we’ve kind of instilled in the kids. It’s nothing but good, fun time for the kids in the program right now.”
Boys Water Polo Scoreboard
Wednesday, Oct. 4
Mater Dei Catholic 13, Eastlake 8
Hilltop 12, Bonita Vista 8
Mar Vista 18, Otay Ranch 6
South Bay League
Wednesday, Oct. 4
Chula Vista 13, Olympian 12
San Ysidro 14, Castle Park 1
Thursday, Oct. 5
San Ysidro 12, Southwest 3