For the majority of the contest Thursday night between the San Marcos High girls water polo team and Mater Dei, nothing was going the Royals way.
San Marcos’ offense was completely shut down in the first half and, trailing by one late in the fourth quarter, the Royals looked like they were just about out of options in the first round of the CIF-SS Div. 1 playoffs.
San Marcos’ seniors, it turns out, had the answers all along.
A goal from senior Cassidy Miller tied the contest with just over a minute left followed by a score from senior Hannah Meyer with 28 seconds remaining gave the Royals a 5-4 victory at DP’s Elings Aquatic Center.
“Heck yes,” Meyer said after being asked what her emotions were after making the final shot.
“I was so fired up and just thank God. We’ve had a great rivalry against them since my freshman year and we all know each other. We’ve all played together. I respect all of them deeply, they are great players and just I’ve grown up with them playing water polo and it’s just great to just play the game with them.”
With the win, San Marcos will move into the quarterfinals where it will face Foothill at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine on Wednesday with a time to be determined.
Before netting the game-winner, Meyer was struggling from the field, missing her first few shots of the evening.
The one shot that truly mattered, however, the senior found a way to get it past’s Mater Dei’s great keeper, Jada Ward, and send her team to the second round of the CIF-SS Div. 1 playoffs.
Asked how she had the confidence to step into the shot, Meyer responded: “My confidence relies on all my teammates”
“If they’re up I’m up, and, that goal, it wasn’t me, it was literally all of them and I’m just so proud of the way that they stuck together, and how resilient we were. That was all my teammates right there okay and I am just so proud of them,” Meyer said with a huge smile on her face.
On the game-winning play, Meyer received a feed from her teammate. The senior then pumped for a second before firing a shot to the bottom left corner that skipped into the goal and cleared past the Monarchs’ keeper.
“I was just like ‘okay, what is open in the cage, stay calm,’ and just ‘like come on, this is where your team needs you. This is where I counted on them and now it’s time for me to put my team through.”
Even when her offensive game wasn’t going her way, Meyer was still an amazing anchor on the defensive side of the ball for the Royals.
In the fourth quarter alone, the senior forced three steals and never let any pass go into the two-meter position without a ton of pressure.
The first half saw neither team scoring much with the score being just 1-0 in favor of Mater Dei at the break.
To start the third period, the Royals were able to get a goal off a power-play situation from Claire Kronen to tie the game at 1-all.
From there, both sides traded goals with freshmen Ava Stryker and Reagan McEachen stepping up in lieu of Ella Prentice, who got injured in the first period.
Their goals, and contributions outside of scoring, allowed San Marcos to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the fourth frame.
“They’re legit,” Meyer said of her freshman teammates.
“Those freshmen girls are so good. They have such raw talent and I cannot wait for their next three years, they’re so good.”
In the fourth period, what allowed the Royals to stay in the game for so long was a punishing pressure defense. Every single time it felt like, the Monarchs were unable to even get a shot off against San Marcos’ defense.
The pressure from the Royals forced the Mater Dei players to work late into the shot clock and either make a bad turnover or just take a bad shot.
“Hannah Meyer is a force on defense and Zosia Amberger has done a great job improving as a goalie so you got that little backbone and Cassidy Miller’s a great matchup defender. There’s a lot of people behind that make it happen and it looks easy but it’s not,” San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth said.
Still, Mater Dei did find the back of the net one time in the fourth quarter, as with 2:10 remaining a shot from Taylor Vangrin hit the far post and bounced in for a Monarchs’ score.
The Royals would respond with a beautiful goal from Miller out of a timeout, which saw Meyer deliver the pass to her senior teammate.
San Marcos would force a bad shot on the next possession before Meyer scored her goal to put her team in front.
On the final offensive possession, the ball was stolen by San Marcos, however, a Mater Dei defender took it back and drew a foul. With the clock stopped, Vangrin rose up and took the shot from deep and it was just wide of the net, securing the win for the Royals.
“I am just proud of the girls and really thankful to have the opportunity. This is a special group of kids that I’ve known for a long time and they work really hard and I think that that was one thing I was looking at. I know we had the fire early on but we’re just missing the connection part of it and I think you really saw a lot of passion come out the fourth period on those two shots,” Roth said.
Asked how far she thinks her team could go, especially after a close victory, Meyer had a simple response: “I want to win CIF. I just want to win.”
With a win Thursday, the Royals are one step closer to that reality.