Righetti can now turn its attention to the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The Warriors (18-11, 14-0 PAC 8) will enter the Division 3 playoffs as the No. 1 seed from the PAC 8 League after defeating the Arroyo Grande Eagles 9-5 Thursday evening in the boys water polo league championship game at the Arroyo Grande High School Aquatic Center.
A raucous crowd packed the stands and saw Righetti win its 10th straight league championship and 22nd in the last 23 years.
As each quarter began, Arroyo Grande’s fans chanted “let’s go, Eagles” and the Righetti fans answered with “let’s go, Warriors” in a battle of dueling cheering sections.
Those fans were in for a treat – non-stop action that saw Righetti go out to a big lead before A.G. battled back, making the game a lot closer than the final score indicated.
Early on it was all Warriors. Righetti raced out to a 5-0 lead and led 6-1 at the half.
“We got up early but they really shut down our offense in the second half,” said Righetti head coach Kyle Shaffer.
“We got down early, put ourselves in a tough situation,” said Arroyo Grande’s first-year head coach Russell Peterson. “We talked about taking it one goal at a time. We chipped away at them in the second half but just fell short. I’m really proud of my guys and how they hung in there for the whole game.”
Arroyo Grande made sure it wasn’t going to be a rout.
The Eagles never backed down, cutting the score to 7-5 midway through the fourth quarter before the Warriors scored two late goals to put the game away.
The Warriors wouldn’t have won without an outstanding effort from goal keeper Daxton Miller.
Miller blocked 14 A.G. shots – several from point blank range.
“Our goalie had a great game, he really saved us quite a few times," Shaffer said. “They had some good, hard shots on us. If they scored on any one of those goals, it would have completely changed the momentum of the game.”
“This was a really big game and I really got into it. I was super focused,” Miller said. “But this was a team effort. I couldn’t have done it without our guys playing great defense. Arroyo Grande is a really good team. That really motivated us.”
The Eagles also bounced five shots off the goals posts, keeping constant pressure on the Righetti defense.
The Warriors returned the favor, pressing their offense continuously, forcing Eagles’ keeper Jared Martin to make 15 saves.
After battling back and forth early in the first quarter, Righetti’s Trey Watkins got the ball to Ryan Trenev right in front of the A.G. goal. Trenev was triple-teamed but somehow managed to get a shot off, ripping the ball past Martin at the 5:29 mark for the game’s first score. It was the first of Trenev’s four goals.
Later in the quarter, Miller made a spectacular save of a Shane Hoover shot, tossed the ball to Layne Porter who raced down the pool and fired a shot into the net from the left side to make it 2-0 with 1:19 left in the quarter. That was the first of Porter’s three goals.
Then with time running down, and Righetti holding a man advantage, the Warriors worked the ball around to Cy Cabanas, who found Trenev out front. Trenev immediately put the ball into the lower left corner of the net for a 3-0 lead with 26 seconds left in the first.
Porter scored again on another man-up advantage at 6:25 of the second quarter, followed by a Cabanas goal at 5:20 when Cabanas tipped a pass over Martin’s head for a 5-0 lead.
Arroyo Grande came right back. Braden Taylor threw a cross-pool pass to Nathan Solis who scored the Eagles’ first goal on shot from the short left side.
Near the end of the quarter, Trenev was quadruple-teamed directly in front of the A.G. net. He was fouled on the play and awarded a penalty shot which he put in for a 6-1 lead.
In the third quarter, Nolan Ross’ shot bounced off the left goal post. The ball bounced to Solis who quickly put it into the net, cutting Righetti’s lead to 6-2.
Solis got the Eagles to 6-3 when he shipped a shot past Miller at 6:31 of the fourth. Porter returned the favor one minute later, skipping a shot into the A.G. goal for a 7-3 lead.
Arroyo Grande then made things interesting, scoring the next two goals – the first by Taylor at 4:23 and the second by Ross at 3:34.
The Warriors responded with Trenev’s final goal at 1:54.
Then Righetti’s Noah Wasylychyn got in close, faked a shot and with Marin out of position, lobbed an easy shot into the net to ice the win with 41 seconds left in the game.
“Ryan and Layne carry us,” Shaffer said. “But a win like this doesn’t happen without the whole team playing steady offense and defense. We got a lot of steals, everybody was constantly moving, working hard for this win.”
Both teams have earned spots in the upcoming CIF-SS playoffs.
Righetti will open the playoffs at home while Arroyo Grande expects to open on the other side of the bracket on the road. The brackets will be released Saturday with the first games in their 32-team bracket set for next Tuesday.
“Righetti is a good team with good coaches,” Peterson said. “There’s a reason they’ve won 10 straight league titles. They’re tough to beat.”
“We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season,” Miller said. “I think we’re ready for CIF.”
There is a chance for these two old foes to meet one more time this season. To do it, both will have to advance to the Division 3 championship game.