Boys Water Polo Dominates Woodside to Maintain Unbeaten League Record

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Photo credits to Bob Dahlberg

The boys water polo team coasted past cross-town rivals Woodside on Thursday night, maintaining their undefeated league record with an 11-6 win. Almost halfway through the regular season, expectations are high as M-A looks to continue their streak.

The Bears opened up the scoring a minute and a half into the game with a quick goal from junior Casey Watkins, pushing clear of the Wildcats early.

On Woodside’s next possession, junior goalkeeper Arman Azadpour saved a one-on-one scramble for the ball, quickly recovering to feed it upfield for a second goal, putting the Bears up 2-0 just two minutes into the game.

The Bears continued to dominate on both sides of the ball as the team pressured the Wildcats up high, with Watkins overpowering his opponent and halting the ball’s progression at midfield. The defense played with an overwhelming physicality that officials continued to regulate by calling fouls.

The Wildcats struggled to find forward passes of their own before a succession of fouls gave them their first opportunity and point of the game. The Bears quickly countered with a looping shot from junior Dylan Scirpo soaring past the outstretched fingertips of the Wildcats’ keeper. 

The first quarter continued in similar fashion as the Bears patiently clamped down on defense, forcing long shots and putting up strong stops before quickly moving upfield. They pushed clear of the Wildcats early into the game as a third point by senior Vaughn Friermuth widened the gap, and M-A continued to pour it on as they stuck to their game plan. 

M-A coach Steven Canalez shared the key to their success during the game, saying, “We set out to challenge their goalie first and foremost. The goalie on the other team, he’s very good, so we went into this game knowing that if there’s anyone on that other team that’s really going to put a stop on our offense, it’s him. Our goal was to move a lot throughout the field. 

A series of passes showcased the Bears’ strategy as they dizzied the Woodside defense, scoring their fifth goal in just as many minutes. The Bears finished the quarter in high spirits, leaving them up 5-1. 

Freirermuth splits two Woodside defenders

The second quarter kicked off to a hectic start with a couple of goals, one from either team, scored in the first minute, before the Bears took control once again. They kept true to their plan and held the Woodside keeper powerless to stop the onslaught of goals that would round out the first half with the Bears confidently on top, 9-2. 

Watkins shared his mindset, saying, “I’m feeling good you know, just having fun playing water polo. It’s a good time.”

M-A continued their dominance into the second half, locking down on defense and rotating star players Watkins and Friermuth out of the game for the first time. 

“We definitely expected to come out with a win in this game, but we’re not trying to take it lightly at all,” Friermuth said. “We’re definitely the dominant team this game.”

Comfortably up to start the half, Coach Canalez shared the team’s change of plans, stating, “The goal was just to play safe, no need to rush, no need to make risky passes. Play it safe, and protect the ball.” In doing so, the Bears were able to ease up, repeatedly giving “up an offensive possession just to run the clock down.”

After the calm start the Bears had expected, Scirpo got the crowd riled up again as he danced past two defenders to net M-A’s tenth goal of the night. A shot from distance by senior Charlie Wall closed out the third quarter, putting the Bears up 11-4.

Scripo strips Woodside player for steal

As the Bears continued to set in on defense, keeping the goals to a minimum, the game came to a quiet close. Having done precisely what they set out to do, Coach Canalez shared his thoughts towards the future, “Now that we have wins on 5 of the 6 teams in our division, we’re definitely looking forward and saying that alright, when we do have these teams again, how can we be even better, cutting down on turnovers, and we really would like to go 12-0 in league. An undefeated season is the goal right now, the big aspiration.”

The team will complete their first regular season round-robin on Tuesday night against the Aragon Dons.

Andrew is a senior at M-A in his first year of journalism and hopes to share his interest in classical music through his writing.

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