It was a game that Dylan Fogg had been waiting for four years, and the senior didn’t disappoint.
Fogg scored a team-high five goals as the Santa Barbara High water polo team was able to survive a second-half rally by Dos Pueblos and win the Channel League tournament with a 10-8 victory Wednesday afternoon at the Elings Aquatic Center.
“It feels great,” Fogg said after the match. “Since my freshman year we’ve lost to them three times in a row (in the final) and it was nice to get my one year to win it.
“I’m friends with all of those guys from club and we all talk the talk – ‘oh we’re going to beat you’ or ‘no we’re going to beat you’ – all this lip service,” Fogg said. “It just feels nice to win and know that we won without having to talk.”
Fogg helped set the tempo for the Dons, scoring three times in the opening quarter. He connected on a pair of penalty shots and added another on an outside shot. Junior Bronson Blix scored the Dons second goal to propel them to a 4-0 advantage. DP’s Ethan Parrish, who is committed to Stanford, scored with 2:01 left in the first to get his team on the board.
“Not too much went wrong for us in the first quarter,” said Dons coach Mark Walsh. “Things seemed to be going well for us. We were getting good passes and hitting our shots. We seemed really patient and sometimes in a big game, you get really nervous and you’ve got the ball and end up getting too nervous and you throw the ball over the goal or something like that. I think we had a real calmness to us and it mostly started with our defense – focusing on what we were supposed to do there and then transitioning out and seeing what they have.”
In the second quarter, it was Chase Raisin’s turn to provide the offensive punch. The Santa Clara commit scored three times in the period, while Fogg added his fourth goal of the match. The Chargers’ Sammy Arshadi scored twice to make it 8-3 Dons at the half.
In the third quarter, DP was able to get things going offensively and outscored Santa Barbara 5-1 to make it a one-score game. Jordan Hayes scored off an assist from Blix to give Santa Barbara a 9-3 advantage before DP went on a run. Arshadi notched a pair of goals before Parish scored on a penalty shot to make it 9-6. With 2:20 left in the third, Conner Goeden scored on a tip in to make it 9-7, and with 14 seconds left in the third Rex Goodner’s goal made it 9-8 heading to the fourth.
“They came out really tough, just like the last time we played them, in the third and hit some shots and made some good moves,” Walsh said. “A lot of it was some of our poor decision making on offense, our misses on offense. We were getting a lot of the same shots, but they started shot blocking them or we started to shoot a little bit wide and then they get up on the counter with their speed with either Ethan or Sammy up top. Those guys are tough to stop one on one.”
DP coach Bryan Snyder said his team came out flat in the first half, but were able to get back to basics to get back in the game.
“I told them to understand that you have one half of water polo left to play and if we stick with our system we will generate goals,” Snyder said. “We have enough offensive firepower to where we’re going to score goals no problem, we’ve just got to make sure that we’re covering on the defensive end as well. You can’t trade goals with them when you’re down 8-3 at half.”
The Chargers had their chances in the fourth but were unable to convert. With 6:04 left, a shot by Arshadi went off the top post. About 90 seconds later, Wyatt Pieretti made the best of his nine saves in the match, denying a scoring chance right in front of the net during a DP power play. The Dons supporters in attendance erupted after the save. He notched another save with 3:04 before Fogg scored his final goal to secure the win.
“He’s a great goalie,” Snyder said of Pieretti. “He comes out of the water really well. On land, he’s relatively short but you see him in the water and he looks like his 6-5 or 6-6. He’s a great goalie and he came up with some very, very clutch saves.
“Those are game-changing saves. Hat’s off to Wyatt, he had another great game.”
Pieretti sat out much of last year due to an illness. When he got his shot towards the end of last season, Walsh was impressed with his explosiveness and quickness.
“I know he likes playing in big games and he gets excited for them,” Walsh said of his goalie. “He’s a gamer and we’re excited to have him.
“His confidence is really high,” he added. “He’s a really quiet kid, but inside I think he thinks he’s pretty good and he can stop anybody. I like that inner confidence.”
While Santa Barbara was able to defeat its cross-town rival four times this season, Fogg said the team will have to lock in mentally to get where they want to go.
“We can’t lose the mental half of the game … against a really good team, they’re going to take advantage of it and go up by a lot and we’re not going to be able to catch them,” Fogg said. “Going forward, we’ve got to keep our heads in the game and focus on our game.”
Both teams will soon learn their playoff fates with the release of the brackets expected this weekend. Santa Barbara entered the tournament ranked No. 7 in the CIF-SS Division 3 poll. DP was 19th in the combined CIF-SS Division 1-2 rankings.