Just two days after an easy win over Rio Mesa in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs, the Santa Barbara High boys water polo team found themselves in a gritty, pound-for-pound match against Edison High in the second round at SBHS.
Down one goal at the break, the Dons knew it would need to find new energy to advance to the quarterfinals of the bracket.
Santa Barbara did just that by posting a dominating second-half shutout performance to take the victory 10-6 when all was said and done.
“I know they had a really tough game against Temple City so I figured they’d be gassed… I thought maybe this could be a team we could just jump on early and you know they’d be just tired and not have it and the opposite happened,” Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said.
With the win, Santa Barbara will move on to face Los Osos High on Saturday at a time to be determined.
Every single player contributed to the Dons’ fantastic defensive performance.
In total, Santa Barbara tallied 15 steals, eight of which came on the perimeter which was huge because it kept Edison’s center, Ethan Galaz, out of the contest since he didn’t get many opportunities.
The senior scored five goals in Edison’s win over Temple City in the first round. He was held to just one against Santa Barbara.
“Everyone just understands how important they are and that they are just one piece of the cog of our defense and if one guy’s not helping another guy then it breaks down so they just know what they need to do,” Walsh said.
SB’s Adam Kubinyi came up with a game-high six steals on the night while Bronson Blix and Chase Raisin each added three of their own. In the cage, sophomore goalkeeper Wyatt Pieretti tallied eight saves and played an overall good game.
Blix specifically played great on the backside and with help defense which is where he was able to nab his steals.
“We weren’t talking very much in the first half. And we just were kind of lazy and then second half we just kind of stepped it up,” Blix said.
Senior Dylan Fogg also played spectacularly on Thursday. Fogg finished with a game-high four scores and also had a pair of assists. Fogg scored a goal in each quarter.
Overall, Santa Barbara’s ball movement was also a key factor in the game, especially in the second half.
When the game commenced, it was Edison who struck first and also struck last at the end of the first frame to go into the second tied at 2-2.
The Chargers then got a score from Galaz on the inside, really the only time he was able to get free, and went up 3-2.
On the ensuing possession, on a power-play opportunity, Santa Barbara took full advantage. Fogg, on the left-wing, found a cutting Blix on the right side of the cage. Blix caught the pass and scored it right past the keeper.
The teams traded a pair of scores, but then Raisin, who drew a total of four ejections on the day, came up with a big ejection to set up Fogg with a penalty shot. The senior nailed it to put the Dons up 5-4 with 1:41 left to go in the first half.
With under a minute to play before the break, Edison got a pair of goals to take a 6-5 lead.
Despite being down a goal, Santa Barbara knew it had a lot more left in the tank.
“We knew there was a lot of game left … We weren’t moving very much in our offense so we were easy to defend … so we were trying to get our guys to move a little bit more, and we able to get some exclusions and score some goals,” Walsh said.
In the third frame, Santa Barbara outscored Edison 3-0. The three goals were all thanks to a much more fast-paced offense that saw the Dons get out on the fastbreak a lot more and opened up some easier opportunities.
Tied at 6-6, Blix, with the shot clock winding down, stepped up and nailed a shot to give the Dons a lead they would never get back.
“They left me open so I just kind of walked in and shot it and it went in,” Blix said.
On the next possession, after forcing a bad shot, Raisin found Fogg on the deep end of the pool behind the defense. Fogg, one on one with the keeper, then converted the shot to give Santa Barbara an 8-6 lead heading into the final frame.
In the fourth, what kept the Chargers alive was their keeper. He made a bunch of key stops, including blocking a Fogg penalty shot. But, Edison could never mount a successful drive.
Finally, with 3:24 remaining, Adam Coffin scored with two defenders draping over him to put the Dons up 9-6.
Then, with exactly two minutes left, Raisin iced the game when he had the ball in front of the cage, somehow evaded two defenders that were directly in front of him by almost passing the ball to himself, and then scored.
His score prompted an eruption of cheers from Santa Barbara’s crowd and bench.
“It was just a sweet goal. It was one of the best moves I have seen him make. It just seemed very fitting. It was kind of like a guy in his last game, and you know he’s retiring, and he hits a walk-off home run or a three-pointer. It just seems like the right time to pull him out —‘Hey, that’s going to be the last shot you’re going to take in this pool,’” Walsh said.
Now with two home wins under their belt, the Dons will have to leave the comfort of their home most likely for the remainder of the postseason.
The next team in Santa Barbara’s way, Los Osos High, is a team that has won its first two playoff games by a combined score of 40-11.
The Grizzlies knocked the Dons out of the playoffs last season in the semifinals and also defeated them earlier this year, 13-10 after Santa Barbara held a three-point lead heading into the final frame.
“They’re very very similar to us, they’ve got good center play good shooters good goalies there, they’re a tough matchup,” Walsh said.