Dana Hills sophomore Kai Hanson looks for an opening against the San Clemente boys water polo team on Oct. 13. Photo: Steve Breazeale
Dana Hills sophomore Kai Hanson looks for an opening against the San Clemente boys water polo team on Oct. 13. Photo: Steve Breazeale

By Steve Breazeale

Dana Hills boys water polo head coach Matt Rosa has been witnessing a pleasant trend embedded in his team’s results over the past few weeks. The Dolphins, the No. 2 ranked team in CIF-SS Division 2, have been winning games by routinely holding opponents to just a handful of goals.

The Dolphins put together what Rosa called the team’s most complete defensive effort of the season on Oct. 13, when they hosted rival San Clemente and emerged with a 17-4 South Coast League win. It was the fifth time in Dana Hills’ last seven matches that the Dolphins defense limited an opponent to five goals or less.

The Tritons (8-9, 2-1 league) took an early 1-0 lead in the first quarter on a goal by junior Josh Mourer but it would not last long. Dana Hills senior Bennet Williams scored twice and sophomore Kai Hanson added a goal, and the Dolphins never looked back.

Williams scored a game-high seven goals and recorded three of them in a big second quarter for Dana Hills. Williams scored three times on a breakaway play following a Dolphins steal. Four different players scored for the Dolphins in the second and the defense did not allow a goal as Dana Hills took a 10-2 lead into the half.

San Clemente junior attack Sean Edwards readies for a shot attempt against Dana Hills on Oct. 13. Photo: Steve Breazeale
San Clemente junior attack Sean Edwards readies for a shot attempt against Dana Hills on Oct. 13. Photo: Steve Breazeale

Rosa said the team’s strategy heading into the game was to be physical with the Tritons and the Dolphins didn’t let up in the second half. San Clemente had six man-advantage opportunities due to Dolphin exclusion fouls in the final two quarters, but they could not find the net as the Dolphins clamped down.

The backbone of the Dolphins defense was senior goalie Riley Zachary, who had 12 saves and an answer to just about every Triton scoring opportunity.

“Riley in the cage helps tremendously. That guy’s just a beast,” Rosa said. “When he’s on and he’s been playing really well, they have to have a high percentage opportunity or it doesn’t go. There’s nothing soft that goes in the cage. If we’re playing good physical defense and (Zachary) is knocking the ball down like he is, we’re tough to score on.”

Senior Parker Bennis and junior Sean Edwards scored for San Clemente in the third quarter.

The Dolphins will host Los Osos at San Juan Hills High School on Oct. 17 before returning to league play Oct. 20 against Mission Viejo.

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