Wednesday afternoon will be an important day for the Santa Barbara High boys water polo team.
The Dons will be making its second straight appearance in the CIF-SS Division 3 boys water polo semifinal, only this time, they will hope to come away with a victory as they will face Northwood High at 3:30 p.m.
The match will be played at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine which is also the site of the championship match should the Dons make it.
Santa Barbara earned its trip to the semifinal after eeking out a tough 11-10 overtime win at Los Osos High on Saturday. Los Osos was the team that beat Santa Barbara in last season’s semifinals.
“Los Osos is as good as a team as there is in our division and that might be the most difficult game we will have. This game wasn’t a neutral site, it was at their pool. Obviously, the stakes are bigger (on Wednesday) but that might have been the most difficult thing for us to do so I am proud of these guys,” Santa Barbara Coach Mark Walsh said after the team’s win on Saturday.
Northwood defeated Westlake 6-5 to advance to the semifinals.
The senior-driven Dons have been playing their best water polo as of late. The team has won seven straight which included four wins in Channel League play where the team went undefeated in both the regular season and the tournament.
In its three postseason matches thus far, Santa Barbara (25-6) has won its games by a combined score of 38-26.
The Dons started their postseason run with an easy 17-10 victory against Rio Mesa at home, then remained at home for its second-round match against Edison.
Against Edison, Santa Barbara found itself down 6-5, but the team played shutdown defense in the second half to overcome the Chargers 10-6.
Finally, against Los Osos, the Dons were up 5-1 early and, despite blowing the lead, they held tough and pulled out a tough win.
Senior Chase Raisin has been one of the team’s best offensive weapons through three postseason matches as he has eight goals, has drawn nine ejections, two of which led to key penalty shots, and has tallied four steals on the defensive end.
Fellow senior Dylan Fogg has also contributed mightily with seven goals and nine assists through CIF play.
Another senior, Adam Coffin, has been big in the playmaking department with seven assists, including the key assist to Ryan Drake who scored the game-winning shot against Los Osos in overtime. Coffin also has six steals.
Although the Dons are led by their seniors, they still have younger players who contribute heavily.
Bronson Blix had a huge second half against Edison with two goals and three steals to help lead the team to a win and sophomore goalkeeper Wyatt Pieretti, who has been shut down all season, has stepped up in the postseason, especially against Los Osos when he had 15 saves, including back-to-back key saves in overtime.
Overall, the team is playing some of its best water polo of the season.
As a result, the Dons have another opportunity to make its first CIF title appearance since 2012 and eighth in the Walsh era.