Malibu Boys Water Polo Defeats Oaks Christian in Overtime

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The Malibu High School Sharks’ Owen Franz, number 7, prepares to score one of his four goals last Thursday at home. 

With his team staring at overtime last Thursday after rivals Oaks Christian tied the game at 10-10 with 23.9 seconds left in regulation, Malibu High School boys water polo coach Mike Mulligan sent his team a message. 

“I said to them, ‘This is a great opportunity for us to show what we are made of. Who wants it more? Let’s go out and get after it,’” the coach recalled. 

Buoyed by a spirited home crowd, the Sharks came out with a purpose, dominating the two three-minute overtime periods with a stout defensive effort and a vise grip on possession. Senior Henry Buckley scored two goals as the Sharks defeated their rivals 12-10 to maintain first place in the Tri-Valley League. 

“It’s just experience,” said Buckley, who scored a game-high five goals along with three assists. “We have a lot of players who play club year-round. We are experienced in big games and we know how to keep our composure. That’s what keeps us in the game.” 

Owen Franz added four goals and four steals and goalie Jack Thompson had eight saves, including three in overtime. The teams meet again at Oaks Christian on Friday, Oct. 25. 

Ranked No. 2 in CIF Division VI, Malibu improved to 16-0 on the season and 3-0 in league. The victory against Oaks Christian was significant for league implications and division rankings.

“We only play them twice and because our league isn’t so great, these kinds of games are really big, especially in our division,” senior Jens Cole said. “To come out and play strong at our house was really important.” 

Meanwhile, the Sharks junior varsity team beat Oaks Christian, 10-2, to run their record to 15-1 overall and 3-0 in league. They have won 17 out of the last 19 JV league titles. 

The varsity team followed up the big win against the Lions with another tournament championship. The Sharks won the Oxnard Tournament last weekend, defeating Crescenta Valley in the semi-finals, 10-2, and Buena in the championship, 8-3. 

Oaks Christian came into the contest rated No. 5 in the same division as Malibu. 

The Sharks have owned the TVL of late, winning the last four league titles and sharing it with Oaks a year ago.

The two schools split their matches last year. Oaks Christian was victorious in overtime at Malibu, 8-7, and the Sharks returned the favor at OC winning 10-9. 

In last week’s face-off, Malibu broke to an early 3-2 lead with 7.8 seconds remaining in the first period when Cole tipped in a pass that was lobbed to him from Buckley. The shot caught the Oaks goalie by surprise and gave the Sharks a surge into the second period. 

Leading 5-3 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, the Sharks then scored three quick goals to take a commanding 8-3 lead into the break. Owen Franz’s five-meter penalty shot, followed by a goal from the left wing by Buckley and another Franz score with 1:05 left, gave MHS a comfortable five-goal cushion. 

Or so it seemed. 

Oaks Christian rallied in the third period outscoring Malibu 3-0 to cut the deficit to 8-6. The Sharks missed several open shots, while the Lions created havoc on defense to force multiple turnovers. 

“I think we got a little lackadaisical,” Malibu coach Mike Mulligan said. “Oaks made a great run in the second half. They made a lot of good defensive adjustments. We were forcing the ball a little too much to our center.” 

Franz, who scored all four of his goals in the first half, was shut down by a swarming and aggressive Lions’ defense. 

Oaks Christian then scored the first three goals of the fourth to take a 9-8 lead with 4:17 left. 

Having absorbed a flurry of body blows from the Lions, the Sharks responded. 

Buckley broke a Malibu scoreless drought of nearly 11 minutes when he scored at the 3:20 mark. Malibu’s Phil Campanella scored at the top of the five-meter area to take the lead back with 1:29 remaining, only to see the Lions force overtime on a goal with 23.6 left. 

Spurred on by their coach’s words, the Sharks dug deep one more time to come out with a crucial victory in overtime to preserve their unbeaten record on the season. 

“It was a great game. Very exciting,” Mulligan said. “I don’t know if it was well-played on our part but we got a ‘W.’ We found a way to win.”