There was enough turbulence in the Santa Barbara High pool this fall to give even the most experienced water polo coach a touch of seasickness.
“We had a lot of ups and downs during the year,” Dons’ coach Mark Walsh said. “It’s not always easy and it’s not always laid out perfectly for you, and you have to work at it.
“We were making a lot of mistakes and weren’t being respectful of our teammates or respectful of the officials. We just kept on kind of banging our heads against the wall and making the same mistakes.
“At a certain point, you’re almost like, ‘This is not going to happen for us.’”
But Dylan Fogg and fellow senior Chase Raisin helped build the bridge over troubled waters that took Santa Barbara to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship on Saturday. The entire Dons’ team was honored at Harry’s Plaza Café on Monday during the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon.
“We fought in practice and we fought in games,” said Fogg. “I guess it taught us to never stop fighting because when we were down, we clawed our way back and kept fighting … and we won.”
Santa Barbara floundered through part of the season. Walsh thought they might be more suited to ice than water.
“For a while, we were just like a hockey team that would get into fights and get ejected,” he said, just trying to prove that we were tough guys instead of just being skilled players.”
A tough schedule kept Fogg’s head up, however. Four victories over Channel League power Dos Pueblos convinced him that the Dons were of championship caliber.
“That was a big thing – normally you don’t beat a team that good four times in one season,” he said. “Once we did that, we knew that was our season. We felt it so we kept working hard and got it done.
“Halfway through the season, me and Chase, were like, ‘This is our year.’”
Walsh saw it coming together during the Dons’ run to the Channel League Tournament championship.
“We finished great,” he said.
Fogg said they bonded with team dinners and film sessions.
“We went through rough patches during the season and had our ups and downs, but we finally all decided that we needed to come together if we were going to win this thing,” he said. “Mainly me and Chase took over the team, along with the other seniors, Adam Coffin and Adam Kubinyi.
“We became serious about this because this is our last year and what we’ve worked for all four years. We wanted it, and by the end of it, everyone else wanted it, too.”
Having Walsh’s hands at the wheel made the biggest difference, Fogg added.
“That was his 14th championship,” he said. “He’s been there many, many times and knows how to keep himself under control and keep us under control.”
That came into play during the second quarter of the championship game when Schurr High jumped out to a 4-2 lead.
“He burned his time out and we came into the huddle and he woke us up,” Fogg said. “He got us back into the game, and that comes from prior experience.
“He’s such a good coach, having gone through that multiple times really helped us in the end.”
Walsh said his two senior stars arose to the occasion at the end.
“Chase got one from pretty far out, a perfect lob shot over the goalie’s head, to put us up by one (8-7) with 2:30 to go,” he said. “We got a few more stops, and then were able to draw an exclusion with about a minute to go.
“(Fogg) scores off that to go up by two with 40 seconds to go, and now we just have to get one big stop to get out of the game (for the 9-7 victory).”
Fogg, who scored five goals apiece in Santa Barbara’s quarterfinal and semifinal victories, also got two of his three on Saturday during the crucial fourth quarter.
“I felt confident the whole time that we could make it, it was just a matter if we could hold ourselves together in the finals and finish it,” he said. “And we did.”
Fogg is still looking at colleges for next season, while Raisin is bound for Santa Clara.
“The seniors were outstanding,” Walsh said. “They really bought into what we were doing. Some people said, ‘I saw your kids in September and I saw them at the end and I don’t even recognize them.’”
Santa Barbara’s football team (10-2) is also hopeful of a CIF championship. The Golden Tornado, which by tradition is the nickname the Dons switch to for the playoffs, are coming off a 42-32 win at Palm Desert. Next stop is Friday’s CIF-SS Division 8 semifinals at 11-1 Palmdale.
Seniors Deacon Hill and Joshua Rosales have been leaders on the offense and defense respectively, coach J.T. Stone said. Hill has thrown eight touchdowns already in two playoff games.
“He’s a master of his craft,” Stone said. “I’m very proud of the kid for putting in the work … watching film and understanding that you can’t just go out there and play a sport.
“Deacon really sucks it in, he really spends the time to understand how the game operates. That’s why he’s so successful and I appreciate that because he has to deal with me.”
Rosales, he added, has been “playing lights out” at defensive end.
“I honestly, truly believe that we don’t get as far as the semis without Joshua’s play on the defensive line,” Stone said. “Everything is controlled there, between him and Noach (Wood) putting in the work.”
If the Tornado wins Friday, the CIF Division 8 final will be played in Santa Barbara.
“I’m pushing for San Marcos High School,” said Stone, whose own stadium is still under reconstruction. “We want to put the city on our back. We want to bring this championship home. We are super-motivated. We are ready to go.”
PREP NOTES: Dos Pueblos is taking both its boys and girls cross country teams to the CIF finals. Two rookies have become key runners for the girls, coach Nash Jimenez said.
“Phoebe (Wolfe Lyons) is a freshman and has done very well as our top runner,” he said. “And we have Ella Gleason, who is also a freshman. She’s come up from No. 7 and is now our No. 5 runner.
“Then we have Ella Kenly. She was our No. 3 runner and now she’s our No. 2. So with the girls, they’ve been really advancing. The boys have done really well, too.”
High school basketball season starts this week, with Providence coach Steve Stokes appointing Zak Lopez and Jordan Short as his captains.
“The energy and enthusiasm they bring to our team is contagious,” he said.
Former Dos Pueblos tennis coach Liz Frech is still making an impact in the sport. She was named as tennis coach of the year by the Southern California Special Olympics.
Frech recently took four Santa Barbara athletes — Chris Evans, Jacob Kuhn, David Schoettler, and John McGrath — to the Special Olympics Fall Games in Irvine. She also coordinated the organization’s recent mix-and-match Santa Barbara Classic.