San Marcos girls water polo coach Brian “Chuckie” Roth said before the season started on Friday he wanted to challenge them.
It’s why he scheduled his team’s first three games of the season against teams that made it to the semifinals of the CIF-SS Div. 1 bracket last year.
The Royals certainly stepped up to the challenge, however, first losing to Foothill, a CIF semifinalist last season, before bouncing back to beat down Corona Del Mar, last season’s CIF runner-up, 12-6 with both games being held at the Elings Aquatic Center at Dos Pueblos High.
“I am just happy for the kids. Every year we try to figure it out, we tend to start a little slow but I have a great group of seniors that do a great job with the leadership and (on Friday) we did good,” Roth said.
San Marcos will finish its tough three-game stretch against defending CIF champion Laguna Beach at 11:30 a.m. today at DP High.
Looking to find out what type of team he had, Roth played nearly everyone he could on Friday, going about 15-deep over the course of the two games.
“The kids stepped up and we played our system well today and it was nice to see,” Roth said.
Against Foothill, San Marcos got a result a little too similar to last season’s.
For the most part, the Royals looked good on Friday in both matches as they scored a combined 21 goals.
The offense flows with pace thanks in large part to their senior leadership. The Royals offense contains five seniors that have signed letters of intent to play college water polo for Division-I programs.
The five seniors are Hannah Meyer (USC), Cassidy Miller (UCLA), Megan Musick (Cal), Claire Kronen (UCLA) and Ella Prentice (Harvard).
They combined to score 15 of the teams 21 total goals on Friday with Miller and Musick each tallying four, Meyer and Kronen earning three apiece and Prentice scoring one.
This talent is something Roth does not take for granted.
“I am lucky. They’re good kids, they’re great people and it speaks volumes to our community,” Roth said.
In fact, Roth is even thankful for the kids he has in his program that might not be playing Div. 1 collegiate water polo in a year but still contribute mightily to this San Marcos team.
“I’ve got several other seniors that are just phenomenal people who might not be going to play D-I but have done everything right and I think that’s really what it’s about. These kids work hard for themselves, they work hard in the classroom they work hard in the athletic arena to give themselves chances and we just want to give them the best opportunity to succeed in life,” Roth said.
In last year’s Div. 1 quarterfinals, the Royals lost to the Knights by one as well, 5-4. In that match, San Marcos had a chance to tie it up as it had the ball with 40 seconds left but failed to do so which allowed Foothill to run out the clock and advance to the semifinals.
In the two programs’ first meeting since then, there was more scoring but the result shook out the same.
The two teams were tied at 2-2 after the first quarter when San Marcos managed to pull away thanks for a four-goal second frame to lead 6-4 at the break.
The Knights scored two goals in the third to tie it up at 7-7 before Prentice made her only goal of the match to give her team a one-score lead heading into the final frame.
Foothill started the fourth frame strong, however, with two goals on its first two possessions to lead 9-8 before San Marcos tied it up with a score from Megan Musick.
On the next possession, the Knights retook the lead with 1:34 remaining. The Royals had two more looks at an equalizer before ultimately falling 10-9.
Despite sharing a similar result as last season, Roth was not upset at the loss.
“In these (games) I’m learning so much about our team and our girls are learning so much about each other and that’s kind of how we look at these games. To get a win is always awesome, but I think more important is the process of it and what we need to do to become the best we can be,” Roth said.
Less than three hours later, however, San Marcos again took the pool and learned from its mistakes in the first game.
The Royals started out hot on offense, leading 4-2 after one and 8-3 at half time. It was that quick start that allowed Roth to be able to sub in more players and see everyone get some playing time.
Meyer’s younger sister, Kate Meyer, scored her first varsity goal against CDM as the freshman scored midway through the fourth and final period to put San Marcos ahead 11-6.
Roth said of the younger Meyer that she will be a key asset going forward as she brings a key versatility.
Overall, Roth was also pleased with the performance of his offense as a whole against CDM.
“Their goalie is arguably the best in the country, and she’s phenomenal and we just shot well tonight and that was good for us to see,” Roth said.
Just two games into the season, Roth isn’t going to say that this team is destined to win the CIF Finals as they did two seasons, however, he certainly believes in his teams’ leadership and talent level to have a successful year.
“You never know. It takes a special group of kids to put the team above themselves at all times, and a lot of these seniors and juniors were on the team when we won so they know it’s possible and I think that’s the real answer,” Roth said.
“They’ve seen the process work and they’ve seen the great leadership lead us to where we needed to be and they saw kids step up in big moments and every year is a possibility but it comes down to how well you play on any given day.”