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Eastlake Titans advance to the next level in boys water polo playoffs Phillip Brents | Fri, Nov 19 2010 03:38 PM

The Eastlake Titans experienced a rude welcome to last Saturday’s San Diego Section Division I quarterfinal playoffs by dropping a 20-0 decision to the top-seeded Vista Panthers. But the Titans expect to be back in the future after having navigated previously uncharted waters for the first time.

Eastlake, seeded ninth in this year’s 12-team divisional draw, defeated the eighth-seeded Poway Titans, 10-6, in a first-round game played Nov. 11 at UC San Diego. The playoff victory was the first-ever in school history for the three-time Mesa League champions.

“We had scrimmaged them at the start of the season and we knew what they had and they knew what we had — there were no secrets,” EHS coach Chris Barrick said. “They had three guys who were good shooters and we had to bottle them up. We kind of fell victim to Poway’s press in the fourth quarter but we had enough of a lead that we were able to hold them off.”

Eastlake, which finished 19-11 with the loss to Vista, was clearly the stronger team in its first-round match-up against Poway (10-20) by cranking out a 7-1 advantage early in the third quarter. Senior Ian Muhlbach, who had been injured on and off for most the season, made a triumphant return to the lineup by scoring the game’s opening two goals.

Muhlbach and teammate Adam Hilborn each had three goals in the first half. Hilborn scored twice more in the second half to collect five goals in the game. Josue Alvarez and Eric Hum scored single goals for Eastlake, which received six goalie saves from Rhett McGinty and four stops from Brian Porter.

“It was probably the biggest game in my career,” said Muhlbach, a three-year varsity performer. “It was just exciting scoring and hearing the crowd roar. It feels great to be part of school history. It will always be there — we were the first team to win a playoff game.”

The ensuing game against Vista (26-3) took the playoffs to the next level in more ways than one. The Panthers led 9-0 after the first quarter and 13-0 at halftime.

“Vista is playing at a level all its own this year,” Barrick said. “They just out-swam us.”

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