By Zach Cavanagh
The opportunity was there for the No. 2 seed Dana Hills boys water polo team.
The Dolphins had made the most of their slot in Division 2 with a run to only the third CIF-SS semifinal in school history, but Dana Hills would go no farther.
In a back-and-forth affair, Dana Hills took the lead in the third quarter, but Mira Costa went ahead in a frenetic fourth quarter to defeat the Dolphins, 8-6, in a CIF-SS Division 2 semifinal match on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine.
“It’s evenly matched,” Dana Hills coach Matt Rosa said. “We could play that game again and the score could be the other way very easily. They happened to make a couple more plays than we did, and bummer for us.”
The teams traded goals through the first half as Mira Costa led, 5-4, at halftime. In the second half, each team exerted control in each quarter as they pushed for a berth in the Final.
The third quarter was Dana Hills’. Ian Diamond and Aidan Sullivan scored on back-to-back possessions as Justin Edward made six of his 12 total saves to keep Mira Costa off the board for a 6-5 Dolphins lead.
Edward had been the backbone of a Dana Hills defensive effort that saw the Dolphins earn one-goal wins in the first round and quarterfinals.
“He’s a solid goaltender that will put us in position to win games,” Rosa said, “and I thought we were there. A couple snuck by him in the fourth I think he’d love to have back.”
The fourth quarter belonged to Mira Costa.
The Mustangs shut down two six-on-five possessions for Dana Hills early in the quarter and made a mark of their own late.
Mira Costa tied the game with a shot that deflected off Edward’s hand and took the lead, 7-6, on a five-meter penalty shot. The Mustangs clinched the game with a shot that was blocked by Edward, but the ball was forced under the water and under Edward’s arm for the goal.
Kaden Likins nails a 5-meter penalty shot for Dana Hills, ties it up with Mira Costa, 4-4, midway through 2Q. CIF-SS D2 semifinals. @dhhs_athletics @KadenLikins @mjrosa19 @DanaPointTimes pic.twitter.com/s4S8lTbHIx
— SouthOCsports (@SouthOCsports) November 8, 2018
Sullivan scored the first goal of the game for Dana Hills for an early 1-1 tie, and Adler Zachary, Grayson Wallett and Kaden Likins each scored in the first half for the Dolphins.
While any team is disappointed by a season-ending loss, the Dana Hills boys water polo program has plenty of highlights to reflect on during a successful season.
“It’s a proud accomplishment,” Rosa said of advancing to the semifinals. “It’s something Dana Hills hasn’t accomplished a lot. It’s not like we’re racking them up all over the place. A 20-win season, semifinals of CIF, it’s something we should be proud of.”
Dana Hills has plenty to look forward to as well, with players like Edward and Zachary returning next season.
“I really enjoyed this season,” Rosa said. “This is coming from me on a personal note where the last couple seasons have not been as satisfying. I had a lot of fun with this group.”