By Steve Breazeale
The Dana Hills boys water polo team was trying to shoot their way out of a three goal deficit for most of the game in their November 7 CIF-SS Division 1 match up against University. Shots were flying, but none of them were landing.
But after trailing by three goals to start the fourth period of play, the Dolphin defense woke up, which sparked an offensive comeback that ended with a game-winner by junior Spencer Likins with 23 seconds left on the clock, giving Dana Hills a 12-11 first-round victory.
Dolphins head coach Matt Rosa did not envision his team falling to a 7-3 deficit so early in the game. The Dolphins had no answer to the Trojans outside attack and by the time University took a 7-4 lead into halftime, four of their goals had come from the outside.
“I thought (our) team that played the second half would come out and start the game,” Rosa said. “Unfortunately, that team didn’t start and we gave them a four goal lead. We had to slowly progress back.”
The tone of the second half changed immediately for the Dolphins and they became visibly more aggressive on defense and were sparked by big second-half plays.
After attempting to chase down a loose ball that fell in front of the Trojans’ goalie, Likins was awarded a penalty shot after the goalie committed a foul. There was no doubt on the shot as Likins buried the ball in the corner of the net.
The Dolphins finally tied things up at 10-10 on a play that almost wasn’t.
After sneaking past the Trojan defense to the two-meter mark, Likins found himself all alone and the recipient of a nice lob pass. Likins wasn’t able to corral the pass at first and had to improvise after losing his position. The junior quickly turned his back to the goal and scored with his backhand.
As the clock was winding down in the fourth period Dolphins senior goalie Brody Zachary added to the team’s big play list.
Trojans junior Jake Sanders was awarded a penalty shot and was looking to break the 10-10 tie. After waiting several minutes while officials discussed a scoreboard issue, Sanders was the lone University player on the Dolphins side of the pool, waiting to take his shot. Just before Sanders’ throw, Zachary broke to his left and deflected the shot attempt off of his chest, keeping the Dolphins’ hopes alive.
“(The save) was huge. If they make that that puts (University) in a really good position…when you miss a shot like that it totally reverses the momentum,” Rosa said.
“Momentum is such a crazy thing in high school…(Zachary) makes that save and we come back with confidence.”
Likins’ fifth and final goal of the night was certainly the biggest, as he received a nice pass from senior Sam Pfeil to the back post and he converted to give the Dolphins the lead.
Dana Hills will now host Wilson/Long Beach in the quarterfinals on Saturday, November 10. The Dolphins played Wilson/Long Beach two times in the preseason, splitting the season series with one win.