Following last week’s thrilling comeback with its victory in overtime against Beaumont High School, the Malibu High School varsity water polo team traveled to Irvine on Saturday to play in the CIF Championship against Rio Mesa High School. The team would eventually lose in a 4-9 contest, making it their third loss to Rio Mesa this season.
“I think that we didn’t come to the pool on Saturday ready to play Malibu water polo,” senior co-captain Ryan Brown said. “We played their game and, in the end, the score reflected that.”
The Sharks came into the championship game with an undefeated league record, three wins in the postseason, and a number of experienced players and coaches hoping to earn themselves a CIF championship ring.
With fans of both schools cheering the teams on in what turned out to be a rainy day at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center, the Sharks opened the game with a quick score, as junior Theo Guillemot gave Malibu a quick lead over the Spartans. However, Rio Mesa would score on their next possession, tying the game at one apiece in the first period of play.
As the game progressed, the Sharks continued to struggle finding a consistent offensive rhythm. The Rio Mesa defense continued to pressure the Sharks’ primary ball handlers, while at the same time making it difficult for their goal-scorers to find the back of the net. Meanwhile, the Spartan offense proved to be formidable, as Rio Mesa was able to take a 4-1 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw a small decline in offensive productivity out of Rio Mesa, as the Sharks defense was able to hold the team to two goals as opposed to the four scored in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Sharks were able to capitalize on a bad offensive possession from the Spartans, as sophomore Emmett Pierson scored the Sharks’ second goal of the game with two minutes left in the first half. At the end of the half, the Sharks found themselves down 2-6.
The second half began with Rio Mesa continuing to stunt the Sharks’ offense while at the same time making good use of their offensive possessions. Rio Mesa scored another two goals in the third period, putting them up 8-2 with two minutes left in the period. However, senior Erik Philbrick scored at the end of the third quarter, putting the score at 3-8 with one quarter of play left in the game.
The fourth quarter featured Rio Mesa playing primarily on the defensive as they tried to stop any attempt that Malibu could make on goal. Senior Ryan Brown, whom the Spartans kept in check all game with a number of double-teams, scored a goal after another Rio Mesa score, making the final count 4-9.
While many of the players were sad about their loss, they viewed the season as a great success overall and recognized that Rio Mesa was simply the better team that day.
“When looking at the season as a whole, our team was extremely successful. I never was really thinking about this year being a CIF finals kind of year,” Brown said. “A lot of the younger players showed massive improvements during the season and ended up playing vital roles on our team. It was exciting for me to be a leader on a team that ended up doing so well.”