Wolverines win on Homecoming, gearing up for Mater Dei showdown

Mila Barzdukas

Aside from a 10-8 win over Mater Dei in the finals of the Santa Barbara Tournament Sept. 13, the boys’ water polo team has won every game this season so far by at least nine goals. But the Wolverines have a few more games left in the regular season that could be a threat to their goal of an undefeated season.

Last Friday and Saturday, the squad traveled to Irvine’s Woollett Aquatic Center to compete in the S&R Tournament. As the top seed in the tournament, the Wolverines had an easy first day on Friday, defeating Clovis West 24-2 and then Long Beach Wilson 21-9 in the quarterfinals.

“We had a few collapses on defense in the Long Beach Wilson game that should never have happened,” Center Ben Hallock ’16 said. “But offensively we dominated the whole game.”

A 21-9 rout of Sacred Heart advanced the squad past the semifinals. In the finals, Hallock scored six goals and attacker Johnny Hooper ’15 scored eight goals to beat Corona del Mar 22-7.

Last year, the Wolverines won the tournament for the first time ever.

The first place finish in the S&R Tournament combined with their unbeaten record has solidified the Wolverines as top dogs.

“We definitely have a target on our backs,” starting goalkeeper Anthony Ridgley ’15 said. “I think we knew that even from the beginning of the season, very early on. A lot of players on the team play club [water polo] together and even then we knew we were the team to beat.”

Being the best is not a huge shock to Ridgley.

“Even last year Mater Dei was definitely more of a team to beat than us and people were still out to get us,” Ridgley said. “Every team needs to bring their best game against us, so we’re used to bringing our best every game and taking advantage of every possession, just as if it’s CIF finals.”

For the first time in two years, the Wolverines face Mater Dei at the Copses Family Pool today at 5 p.m. The matchup is garnering a lot of attention, especially since recent CIF Southern Section upsets have caused ripples in the water polo world.

It was previously thought that Harvard-Westlake and Mater Dei were the two best teams in the pool, going 1-2 in various polls. However, Mater Dei recently lost by two goals to eighth ranked Long Beach Wilson, who in turn lost to sixth ranked Huntington Beach 17-9. The Wolverines played Huntington Beach Oct. 2 and beat them 15-3.

“Long Beach Wilson beating Mater Dei was actually the upset of the season so far,” Hallock said.

The only constant throughout the season is every poll has named Harvard-Westlake as the number one team to beat.

“Last year when we won we were still a young team and now we’re definitely the most experienced at everything,” Hooper. “We have eight seniors on the team this year which is crazy to think. We’re just really prepared for everything.”

The shakeup of wins and losses in the Southern Section has been noted by the Wolverines, but attacker Jake McCabe ’15 says their team philosophy has not changed.

“We want to crush Long Beach [Wilson] to send the message that we’re at the top,” McCabe said.

The teams will play each other Oct. 27 at Copses Family Pool.

The Wolverines have not lost a game in their pool since 2012, and they plan to keep that streak alive even as they play the next best team in the nation.

“I think we’re going to be out for blood a little bit,” Ridgley said. “They beat us at their home pool last year and we thought we had them, so I think it’s time to take it back to them in our home pool in front of our home crowd. We just want to show them early on that they won’t be able to compete with us come the end of season.”

While the team does not want to shift their entire focus to one seasonal game, center Raphael Raede ’15 knows it is important.

“We want to win CIF again,” Raede said. “And to do that, you have to go through Mater Dei. Mater Dei is much closer to us in terms of skill than any other team.”

League play opened on Homecoming against Notre Dame, resulting in their first shutout of the season.

Ridgley was pleased with the outcome, but did not expect anything less from the team.

“I feel like [a shutout] is something that we always strive for,” Ridgley said. “We always set goals for ourselves limiting how many goals we give to the other team. I feel like it was a very realistic goal to shut out this team. We had a defensive emphasis going into the game, and we accomplished that, which is good.”

The Wolverines travel to Alemany tomorrow for their second league game. Last year, the Wolverines beat the Warriors 20-1.