Six local squads qualify for CIF boys water polo playoffs


Mar Vista goalie Levi Lord extends to make one of his numerous saves to keep his team afloat in Tuesday's Division I playoff game against Torrey Pines. Photo by Phillip Brents

Six Metro Conference boys water polo teams qualified for this year’s San Diego Section playoffs — Mar Vista and Mater Dei Catholic in Division I, Eastlake in Division II and Hilltop, Bonita Vista and Olympian in Division III.

Mar Vista and Eastlake finished as Mesa League co-champions for the second consecutive year while Olympian won this year’s South Bay League championship.

Postseason competition started Tuesday (Nov. 5) in both Division I and Division III, followed by the opening round of the Division II playoffs on Thursday (Nov. 7).

Of the five South County teams in action on Tuesday, only fifth-seeded Hilltop advanced. The Lancers will meet fourth-seeded Oceanside (12-15) in a quarterfinal elimination game Friday at 5:15 p.m. at La Jolla High School. The winner advances to the division semifinals.

Southwestern College was showcased in Tuesday’s opening round, with seventh-seeded Mar Vista hosting 10th-seeded Torrey Pines in a Division I opener, followed by a pair of Division III matchups: Olympian against High Tech High San Diego and Hilltop against Escondido.

The opening game of the triple-header proved to be the most competitive, with the Mariners falling, 7-6, on a shot that hit the crossbar with seven seconds to play.

“We made a good run for a team of mostly sophomores and freshmen,” Mar Vista head coach Chad Kavanah said after the game. “We’re proud of what we accomplished. We just wish we could have done better for our senior goalie (Levi Lord). We’ll come back with more maturity and a little more understanding of the game and teamwork.”

Lord was clearly the focal point in the water on Tuesday with several scintillating saves to keep the Mariners within striking distance most of the game.

Torrey Pines, the fifth-place finisher in the Avocado West League, opened up a 3-1 first quarter lead on three goals by freshman August Mason.

Mar Vista sophomore Ethan Hastings opened scoring in the contest but the Mesa league co-champions quickly found themselves down by two goals by the end of the opening quarter.

Hastings gave Mar Vista renewed hope when he scored a six-on-five goal to open the second quarter to reduce his team’s deficit on the scoreboard to 3-2. But Mason beat Lord on a floating lob to the far corner of the cage to restore the Falcons’ two-goal lead at 4-2.

Sophomore Ethan Hastings led Mar Vista with five goals in Tuesday’s playoff game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Hastings scored his second goal of the quarter (and fourth of the game) to narrow the Torrey Pines lead to 4-3 and the Mariners entered the halftime break in a 4-4 deadlock after freshman Trevor Rector scored with 23 seconds left in the second quarter.

The game slowed down from there as both teams scored just one goal in the third quarter.

Torrey Pines went ahead, 5-4, on a goal by junior Barrett Goldman. Mar Vista tied the game, 5-5, on another goal by Hastings.

Luke Wilson takes a shot for Mar Vista in Tuesday’s playoff game. Photo by Phillip Brents

The Mariners took their only lead of the game with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter when Hastings scored his fourth goal of the contest after breaking in off a nice outlet pass.

Ahead 6-5 on the scoreboard, the Mariners looked to add an insurance goal but it never came.

The Falcons took advantage of a six-on-five advantage to tie the game, 6-6, with 3:26 to play as Mason scored his fifth goal on the afternoon.

Torrey Pines made the most of its opportunities down the stretch. Sophomore Augustine Breeze scored on a close-in shot inside traffic with 2:04 left and it stood up as the game-winning goal.

Mar Vista had one last gasp effort to send the game into overtime on a late six-on-five but Hastings laser from the perimeter hit the crossbar and bounced directly down in front of the TP goalie, who immediately grabbed the ball and called for timeout.

The Falcons successfully ran out the clock on the restart.

With the win, Torrey Pines (11-19) advances to Saturday’s quarterfinal match-up against second-seeded San Pasqual (21-7).

Mar Vista ended its season with a 14-15 overall record.

The Mariners will seek a return to the CIF championship game next season with a more experienced lineup. Mar Vista recorded runner-up finishes to Fallbrook in 2015 and Steele Canyon last year.

The Olympian High School boys water polo team returned to the San Diego Section playoffs for the second consecutive year, this year as reigning South Bay League champions. Photo by Phillip Brents

The second game of Tuesday’s triple-header at SWC pitted sixth-seeded HTH San Diego against 11th-seeded Olympian. The Eagles hosted the Storm as league champions.

The designated visitors won 16-6.

High Tech San Diego enjoyed a wide edge in play to open the game in building a 6-1 halftime lead. Olympian proved to be its own worst enemy at times with errant passing.

Olympian goalie Elijah Montero dives to make a save in Tuesday’s playoff game. Photo by Phillip Brents

The Eagles, who finished 7-1 in South Bay League play, made a determined run to get back in the game by scoring four goals in the third quarter to narrow the score to 9-5. But the Storm hailed on Olympian’s comeback bid by scoring seven unanswered goals to take a 16-5 lead to out the game out of reach.

The Eagles gave their fans something to cheer for by scoring the final goal of the game on a six-on-five.

Olympian (8-16) scored three of its six goals on man-up opportunities.

“I’m proud of the team, we made a good effort, a solid effort,” Eagles head coach Craig Collins said. “We’re going to build on this from here. We’re continuing to develop our program and look to be trending up.”

Olympian’s Gavin Baldo looks for a shooting lane in Tuesday’s playoff game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Senior Chris Salang led Olympian on the scoreboard with three goals while juniors Gavin Baldo and Josh Rivera and senior Daniel Joiner all scored one goal.

The Storm (12-11) was keyed by two players with four goals and another player with three goals.

High Tech SD advances to play third-seeded Mt. Carmel (12-11) in Friday’s division quarterfinals at La Jolla High School.

Dominick Carlucci aided the Hilltop offensive surge with a pair of goals in Tuesday’s playoff victory. Photo by Phillip Brents

Hilltop closed out the triple-header with the Metro’s lone win — 10-3 over 12th-seeded Escondido.

The Lancers ended regular season play with a 19-1 Mesa League win over San Ysidro on Nov. 1 and carried the momentum of that victory into the playoff game, though it took a while for Hilltop to separate itself on the scoreboard from the Cougars.

Raul Rico opened scoring for Hilltop in Tuesday’s playoff game on a five-meter shot. Photo by Phillip Brents

Raul Rico opened scoring in the game on a five-meter shot to give the hosts a quick 1-0 lead. But the Lancers failed on four six-on-five scoring opportunities in the first quarter to settle for a 1-1 standoff.

Escondido scored the last goal in the first quarter and the first goal in the second quarter to take a 2-1 lead. Rico scored the second of what would be five goals on the night to allow Hilltop to send the game into halftime tied 2-2.

The Lancers took control in the second half by scoring the opening two goals of the third quarter and ending the game overall with six unanswered goals.

Hilltop took a 4-2 lead on back-to-back six-on-five goals by Dominick Carlucci and Rico.

After Jason Gordon scored for the Cougars to narrow the score to 4-3, Carlucci scored on a five-meter shot to push the Lancers safely ahead 5-3.

Aidan Garces scored back-to-back goals to increase the Hilltop lead to 7-3 and Rico closed out the third quarter with a goal to make the score 8-3.

Escondido proved to be its own worst enemy in the game with 16 exclusions called to Hilltop’s five.

Hilltop’s Nick Garces winds up for a shot in Tuesday’s playoff game. Photo by Phillip Brents

The Lancers added the final two goals in the fourth quarter with the game well-wrapped up. Rico scored on a breakaway while Carlos Mendez scored on a two-on-none, with Rico supplying the assist.

Hilltop senior goalie Alec Lizarraga played well when he was placed under pressure. However, the Lancers clearly controlled the tempo in the game.

The Lancers out-scored the Cougars 8-1 in the second half.

Hilltop advances to Friday’s quarterfinal elimination game at La Jolla High School (5:15 p.m. start) against fourth-seeded Oceanside, a team the Lancers recently defeated in tournament play.

“In Division III, there’s a lot of parity,” veteran Hilltop head coach Ernie Medina said. “It’s nice to know we have a shot. We have some confidence (going into the game against Oceanside). But they are a good team. As for ourselves, we have pride. We’re a scrappy team.”

Hilltop’s defense also came into play in Tuesday’s playoff win. Photo by Phillip Brents

The Lancers, who finished 3-7 in Mesa League play, carry a 13-13 overall record into Friday’s game against Oceanside.

Escondido finished its season with a 6-17 overall record. Gordon led the Cougars with two goals.

In a Division I playoff game played at Grossmont High School on Tuesday, sixth-seeded Grossmont (10-17) eliminated 11th-seeded Mater Dei Catholic 17-9. The Crusaders ended their season 6-4 in Mesa League play, 15-13 overall.

In a Division III playoff game played Tuesday at Miramar College, eight-seeded Mira Mesa (10-13) defeated ninth-seeded Bonita Vista 16-9. The Barons ended their season 3-7 in Mesa League play, 10-18 overall.

The Eastlake Titans fought back from a slow start to earn a Mesa League co-championship and a first-round playoff win. Photo by Phillip Brents

Mesa League co-champion Titans play best game of season to post playoff win over Grizzlies

The focus for all teams in the San Diego Section is to peak at the right time of the season. That means the CIF playoffs.

The Eastlake High School boys water polo team played near flawlessly in Thursday’s opening round Division II playoff game at the Southwestern College pool, defeating the ninth-seeded Mission Hills Grizzlies by a score of 8-5.

The eighth-seeded Titans (15-12) advance to Saturday’s division quarterfinal game against top-seeded Classical Academy (22-4). Game time is 8:30 a.m. at La Jolla High School.

“I thought that we came together as a team,” noted EHS senior goalie James Derrod, who recently set the Southern California career saves record. “We’ve been training for this all season. Everyone played well. We had a solid four quarters.”

The Titans were essentially untouchable for the opening two quarters en route to building a 7-1 lead.

Eastlake scored the first five goals of the game, dictating the game’s tempo with a 4-0 first quarter lead.

Eastlake’s Eli Stewart celebrates early goal in Thursday’s playoff game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Eli Stewart opened scoring almost immediately after the Titans won the sprint, taking a feed from teammate Will Gammon from the right side of the net.

Diego Scheitt made the score 2-0 shortly afterward and when Stewart fed Ekeziel Craig for a goal with 2:18 elapsed in the game, the hosts led 3-0.

Craig scored on a perfect outlet pass from Derrod with 2:38 to play in the opening quarter to up the score to 4-0.

Freshman Zane Derrod, the Eastlake goalie’s younger brother, scored the opening goal of the second quarter for a 5-0 lead.

A combination of strong offense and defense helped Eastlake speed to an early 7-1 lead. Photo by Phillip Brents

Mission Hills, the runner-up at October’s East County Invitational, scored to temporarily narrow the score to 5-1. The Titans didn’t waste time to expand their lead, however, as Craig and Stewart followed with goals to increase the score 7-1.

Eastlake didn’t have much to prove in the second half except play good enough defense to protect its sizable lead.

The Titans were thwarted by some unlucky bounces off the goal frame, as well as the inspired play by the Mission Hills goalie, to stall in running away with the game.

The Grizzlies (11-11) scored the only two goals of the third quarter but Eastlake still had a comfortable 7-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The unlucky bounces continued for the Titans as they continued to attack.

Mission Hills was able to narrow the score to 7-5 with 1:55 to play in regulation before Zach Shields was finally able to deliver the knockout punch for Eastlake with 48 seconds left.

All that was left was for Derrod to block a five-meter shot with 17 seconds remaining.

Derrod finished the game with 14 saves, two assists and two steals to add to his section record total in both categories.

Ezekiel Craig led Eastlake in scoring in Thursday’s playoff game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Craig had three goals and one assist to lead the Titans in scoring while Stewart had two goals, one assist and two steals. Scheitt had one goal, two assists and one steal while the younger Derrod contributed one goal, one assist and one steal. Shields had one goal.

James Derrod played one of his best games of the season to underscore the overall positive energy emanating from the reigning Mesa League co-champions.

Derrod now has 1,229 career saves to surpass the previous Southern California (CIF Southern Section) record of 1,203 by Joseph Moorman of M.L. King (2009-12). Derrod became the SoCal leader following the Titans’ 9-4 win over host Hilltop on Oct. 30.

Derrod recorded 13 saves while adding eight steals in the second-round victory against Hilltop.

He now has 335 career steals after breaking the existing section record of 309 in an Oct. 23 game against San Ysidro.

“I’m thankful for achieving what I have,” Derrod said somewhat humbly. “I’m not sure what the Northern California record is but I know I have the Southern California record. It feels good.”

The entire Eastlake team has to be feeling good after Thursday’s playoff win.

Eastlake defeated top-seeded Classical Academy, 6-5, in the quarterfinals on Nov. 9 and defeated fourth-seeded La Jolla Country Day, 11-5, in the semifinals on Nov. 14 to advance to the Division II championship game against sixth-seeded Patrick Henry (20-8) on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 1 p.m. at La Jolla High School.

The Titans and Caimans were tied 1-1 after a defensive first quarter before Classical Academy reeled off four unanswered goals to take a commanding lead. Eastlake rallied with three goals in the third quarter (two by Scheitt and one by Gammon) and two more in the fourth quarter.

Scheitt tied the game 1:34 into the final period on a penalty shot and the teams played back-and-forth defense for the next four minutes.

Scheitt drew a penalty shot with 46 seconds to play and Stewart converted it for a 6-5 Eastlake lead. Scheitt then made a huge steal to allow the Titans to run the clock down to six seconds.

Gammon made a clutch field block to end the game.

Scheitt lead EHS with three goals and two steals while Stewart had two goals and one assist. Gammon had one goal and two steals while Zane Derrod collected two assists and five steals. Jacob Redden had one steal.

James Derrod notched 11 saves, two steals and one assist in the upset win over Classical Academy (22-5).

The teams were tied 3-3 through the first period before Eastlake took control of the contest with a 6-1 scoring edge in the final quarter. Stewart led the Titans (17-12) with four goals while Scheitt and Craig both scored three goals. James Derrod made 11 saves to extend his section record to 1,251 career stops.


Saturday, Nov. 16 at La Jolla High School:

Division III: (1) Francis Parker vs. (3) Mt. Carmel, 11 a.m.
Division II: (6) Patrick Henru vs. (8) Eastlake, 1 p.m.
State play-in game: (5) Steele Canyon vs. (7) Carlsbad, 3 p.m.
Division I: (1) Westview vs. (2) San Pasqual, 5 p.m.
Open Division: (1) Bishop’s vs. (2) Cathedral Catholic, 7 p.m.



Photo Essay: James Derrod
Photos by Phillip Brents


Alumni Watch:
oung Griffins looking to make statement in defense of PCAC title

The Pacific Coast Athletic Conference will hold its 2019 water polo championship tournament Nov. 8-9 at Southwestern College.

Grossmont College’s men’s team finished a strong 2018 season as PCAC champions while San Diego Mesa College won the women’s title.

Both teams are fighting to stay above the waves in 2019 with a large roster turnover.

The Griffins have elected to field an all-freshman team this season with the aim of gaining experience for next season.

The result has been an 11-15 regular season record, including a 3-2 mark in conference seeding games.

“We’ve red-shirted three starters from last year’s team,” Grossmont head coach Ty Lackey said. “They’re all hanging out, waiting for next year.

“The new guys are young but enthusiastic. It’s very different having an all-freshman team. They’re still learning but still working hard to see this through.”

From left, Emiliano Castro (Bonita Vista) and Skyler Garces (Hilltop) are members of this year’s all-freshman Grossmont College team. Photo by Phillip Brents

Among the “new” guys are a couple of South County prep products: Bonita Vista alum Emiliano Castro and Hilltop grad Skyler Garces.

Both have contributed to the team’s success this season.

Castro leads the state in scoring with 114 goals and leads the conference with 42 steals. Garces has scored 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points in 20 games.

Castro almost didn’t play this season.

“I was going to stop playing after high school but at the last minute I decided I wanted to keep playing at a high level,” Castro said. “I feel I’ve improved from high school and club. Now I’m glad I continued to play.”

“He’s really talented,” Lackey said of Castro. “We’ve asked him to do a lot of things he didn’t do in the past. His real position is two-meters but we’ve had him play everything else.”

Garces called playing at the community college level a “great opportunity.”

“It’s an open door for guys who want to play at the NCAA level,” Garces said. “It’s solid. It’s a step up from Hilltop. We’re all freshmen, so we’re pretty enthusiastic.”

The Griffins could have another championship team in the making for next year, though Lackey isn’t counting out his young water warriors quite yet.

Several Grossmont players rank among the state and PCAC leaders.

Thomas O’Carrol (Valhalla) ranks second in the state with 62 assists while teammate Keith Patrick (West Hills) ranks fourth in the conference with 33 assists.

Daltin Collie (Granite Hills) ranks second among conference goalies with 227 saves.

Ryan Llewellyn (Valhalla) and Garrett Fernandez (West Hills) are members of this year’s Grossmotn College all-freshman team. Photo by Phillip Brents

Driver Ryan Llewellyn, a 2019 Valhalla grad, admits playing on an all-freshman team has had its challenges as well as rewards.

“It’s different, really different playing with everyone from different high schools,” Llewellyn said. “But it’s also been a good experience. JC water polo is much different. It’s more competitive. In high school it was competitive but not like this level, so this is new.”

Garrett Fernandez, a 2018 West Hills grad, echoed much of what his teammate said. He said he is proud of what the team has been able to accomplish this season.

“It’s tough but at the same time it makes us tougher,” Fernandez said. “Basically, on an all-freshmen team we don’t have a lot of guys, so we don’t have a lot of subs. It makes it more difficult but it makes us stronger.”

Grossmont College finished 2-2 at last weekend’s Dia le los Muertos tournament at Southwestern College as a tune-up for this weekend’s PCAC finals. Photos by Phillip Brents

The Griffins ended regular season play with a 2-2 showing at last weekend’s inaugural Dia de los Muertos tournament at Southwestern College.

Grossmont defeated Santa Monica (8-3) and Cypress (18-14) on the first day of the Nov. 1-2 event and dropped matchups to Saddleback (12-11) and Orange Coast (21-8) on the second day.

San Diego Mesa College (16-8 overall) is seeded first for this weekend’s tournament with a 5-0 conference record, followed by Palomar College (12-11 overall) as the second seed with a 4-1 conference record.

Grossmont College is the third seed, followed by Southwestern College (2-3 in conference, 5-22 overall) as the fourth seed. Crafton Hills College (1-4 in conference, 1-11 overall) is the fifth seed while San Diego Miramar College (0-5 in conference, 1-17 overall) is the sixth seed.

The top two-seeded teams receive a bye in the opening round, with the third seed taking on the sixth seed and the fourth seed meeting the fifth seed. Winners advance to the semifinals.

The final day of competition will feature championship games as well as third-place games in both gender fields.

Lackey is hoping his team can put it all together at the right time of the season.

“I think we’ll pull an upset in the semifinals and hopefully pull another upset after that,” the Grossmont coach said.

Grossmont College’s women’s team, on the other hand, will attempt to defend its top seeding in the upcoming championship tournament after finishing 5-0 in conference play, 14-5 overall.

Palomar (16-8) is seeded second at 4-1 in conference play, followed by Southwestern (12-5) with a 3-2 conference record and Miramar (11-10) with a 2-3 conference record. Mesa (7-17 overall) and Crafton Hills (1-11 overall) bring up the rear in the conference standings.

Sophomore Jasmine Miller (Valhalla) ranks second in the PCAC with 65 goals while goalies Alissa Brindley (Ramona), a freshman, and Ally Mitchell (El Capitan), a sophomore, have allowed the least goals in the conference.

Host: site: Southwestern College

Men’s Tournament
Friday, Nov. 8
(3) Grossmont College 19, (6) Miramar College 13
(4) Southwestern 13, (5) Crafton Hills 0

(1) San Diego Mesa 17, (4) Southwestern 9
(2) Palomar 17, (3) Grossmont 15 (OT)

Saturday, Nov. 9
Fifth place: (5) Crafton Hills vs. San Diego Miramar, 10 a.m.
Third place: (3) Grossmont vs. (4) Southwestern, 11:15 p.m.
Championship: (1) San Diego Mesa vs. (2) Palomar, 12:30 p.m.

Women’s Tournament
Friday, Nov. 8
(4) San Diego Miramar 13, (5) San Diego Mesa 6
(3) Southwestern 14, (6) Crafton Hills 3

(2) Palomar 8, (3) Southwestern 7
(1) Grossmont 18, (4) San Diego Miramar 5

Saturday, Nov. 9
Championship: (1) Grossmont vs. (2) Palomar, 1:45 p.m.
Third place: (3) Southwestern vs. (4) Miramar, 3 p.m.
Fifth place: (5) San Diego Mesa vs. (6) Crafton Hills, 4:15 p.m.