The Carpinteria boys water polo team, which became known for its strong season, won the CIF Division 5 title Saturday by beating the Burbank Bulldogs 12-9.
“CIF accurately built the bracket of 28 teams of five single-elimination rounds ultimately pitting the #1 seed Warriors (25-4), versus #2 Bulldogs (25-2),” Coach Jon Otsuki told the News-Press in an email.
“After a three-hour long trek in the Carpinteria district school bus and unseasonably warm 92 degree temperatures, they arrived at the Woollett Aquatic Complex in Irvine,” Otsuki said. “It was a bit concerning as the team usually maintains a ‘loose’ attitude but today was different. They were not tense or overly anxious, but they were focused and poised for the competition.
“The Bulldogs had one player the Warriors were concerned about, Johnny Agazaryan, #7, a man amongst boys,” Otsuki said. “Coach Stephen Kim had him in his crosshairs and would do anything to prevent him from taking the title from his Carpinteria team. And Johnny showed his remarkable ability to beat even a triple team and score from ten meters away as he tallied three of the Bulldogs first five goals.
“Though the game was tied at half 6-6, the score did not paint a fair picture of the contest as the Warriors had three shots that floated “on” the goal line but did not count on the scoreboard,” Otsuki said.
“The third quarter was a pivotal time in the game as Asher Smith, who led the Warriors in goals scored this season with 112 goals and an amazing 26 in the playoffs, got into his rhythm, scoring two from his two-meter position and another on a long counter attack. Reyn Clayton also scored on a counter attack that erupted the Carpinteria fans.
“It was a bit of an overthrow by goalie Jacob Taff and the Bulldog goalie came out of his cage for the steal. Clayton narrowly beat him to the ball, spun around the goalie and swam it into the cage. He later stated that as unusual as it seemed, he did not want to risk missing the shot right in front of the goal. His play, the reaction of the fans, and a 10-7 lead deflated the Burbank team.
“After the 4-1 third quarter goal difference, the Warriors continued to apply pressure and would not let their guard down, outscoring their opponent 2-1 in the final quarter,” Otsuki said.
“There were many ‘firsts’ for this team defeating many other schools for the first time ever, however the only ‘first’ everyone was focused on was this one game, just one chance. This year also includes many “lasts” as nine of the 29 team members are seniors. There was the last early morning conditioning, last hard swim set, last home game, and a last chance to put the pieces together to win the title together.
“The team understood everyone had a role, everyone had to play selflessly or we would not succeed,” Otsuki said. “As those concepts were accepted, the very important foundation of trust was built.
“Asher Smith led the team in scoring with seven, Justin Main and Mateo Handall scored two each, Zach Isaac and Reyn Clayton tallied one.
“Early in the second quarter goalie Jacob Taff blocked a five-meter penalty shot that was a timely momentum game changer,” Otsuki said. “People speak or read about goals scored but the Warriors’ run to the CIF title would not have been possible without the goalie play of Jacob Taff.”