It was a good, old fashioned showdown Wednesday afternoon between two Santa Maria Valley rivals at the Santa Maria High pool.
In a wild game that saw non-stop action from the opening whistle to the final buzzer, St. Joseph’s Knights swam to a 12-9 victory in a non-league boys water polo battle against the Santa Maria Saints.
St. Joseph's Jamison Stahl was virtually unstoppable, scoring eight goals on 10 shots.
St. Joseph’s Ryan Galanski scored three times and David Arechiga once for the winners.
“Jamison definitely stepped up today, he’s a great team leader,” said St. Joseph coach Bianca McNeil. “And Ryan Galanski played a great game. He’s our offensive setter and guards the other team's toughest player on defense. He plays tough from the two-meter mark to the two-meter spot all game long.”
The Saints were led by Vincent Alvarez, who scored four times. Austin Peinado added three and single goals were scored by Adrian Lange and Angel Maceda.
“Vincent took a lot of strong shots and Austin played really well — he has a really strong arm,” said Santa Maria coach Josh Troeger. “And Michael Reyes really stepped it up on defense — he did a really good job.”
This was the second close game between the teams in the last week. St. Joseph edged Santa Maria 8-7 last Friday at Pioneer Valley's tournament.
And this one picked up right where last week’s game left off.
Santa Maria came out firing. St. Joseph fired right back.
The squads battled up and down the pool, both using pressure offense and defense although it took both teams some time to find the correct range.
The Saints took aim first, but Lange’s point-blank shot bounced off the top cross bar.
Santa Maria then stole the ball, Alvarez fed Lange out front who turned, fired and again hit the cross bar.
“Our goalie, Tommy Herrera, was facing shot after shot all day,” said Troeger. “Our guys got back on defense and gave Tommy time to set up. Today we really had our offense and defense playing together.”
The Knights’ Stahl then found Galanski dead center at the two-meter spot but his shot hit the top of the net and skipped out of the pool.
The Saints finally broke through the smothering Knights’ defense when Lange lofted the ball just over the outstretched fingers of St. Joseph goal keeper Isaiah Rodriguez for the game’s first score at the 3:05 mark of the first quarter.
That turned out to be Santa Maria’s only lead.
One minute later, St. Joseph’s Arechiga rifled a long pass to Galanski who blazed a shot past Herrera with 2:04 left in the quarter.
After the Knights’ Rodriguez blocked a point-blank shot, he passed over the Saints’ defense to Galanski who had clear water to the goal. Galanski pulled up and lobbed a floater over Herrera to give the Knights a 2-1 lead 1:16 before the end of the first.
“We didn’t play the way we should have played today,” said Troeger. “My team doesn’t have a lot of experience — we lost a lot of seniors — and we gave St. Joseph too many chances. But I’m proud of my guys, they hung tough.”
Stahl got in gear in the second quarter. He put St. Joseph up 3-1 with a penalty shot at the 4:02 mark.
But the Saints scored two quick goals to tie it — Alvarez fired a low bouncer in into the right corner of the net at 3:23 and Peinado scored on a penalty shot at 2:38.
Stahl then took a pool-length pass from Rodriguez and broke away for a clean shot to the right-hand corner, giving the Knights a 4-3 lead with 1:43 left in the half.
But a penalty against the Knights with 11 seconds left in the half gave Peinado a penalty shot from five-meters out. He scored to make it 4-all entering halftime.
It was more of the same in the second half.
Stahl scored just 30 seconds into the third quarter. Peinado scored at the 1:45 mark to tie it back up at 5-5.
Under heavy pressure in front of the net, Stahl scored two more goals before the quarter ended — the second with less than a second left — to put the Knights up 7-5 after three.
Once again the Saints battled back.
In heavy traffic, Maceda scored from the two-meter spot to make it 7-6 less than a minute into the fourth quarter — the first of a combined nine goals in the final quarter.
Seconds later, St. Joseph’s Justin Jones heaved a cross-pool pass to Arechiga who quickly shot the ball into the corner of the net for an 8-6 lead.
Then Herrera threw a pool-length pass to Peinado who quickly scored to make it a one-goal game again.
Galanski then fired a rocket from about 10 meters out to restore the two-goal lead at the 2:55 mark.
Galanski then broke away for a clean shot and lofted a short floater over the Saint’s keeper to put the Saints up 10-7.
There was still 2:19 and lots of scoring left in the game.
Alvarez broke free from Galanski and scored for the Saints at 1:55. Now it was 10-8.
Galanski then worked the ball to Aiden Anderson who then found Stahl for the Knights’ 11th goal.
Stahl got free in the middle of the pool and put a floater into the net at the 13 second mark for a 12-8 lead.
And with the game almost over, Alvarez took one final shot that went into the net just as the game-ending buzzer sounded.
“It’s losses like this that generate the kind of enthusiasm we need to build this team. I’m confident that this team is going to pull it together. I know we’ve got the talent,” said Troeger. “It was a good match. We fought right down to the end.”
“Santa Maria has a great program — they went to the CIF playoffs last year,” said McNeil. “I’m just thankful that we could keep up with them this year.”
Morro Bay 270, Nipomo 313
Nipomo's Brooke Panzardi was the medalist with her second consecutive 48 on the back nine at Monarch Dunes, but the Pirates defeated the Titans in a Los Padres League match.
The Titans are 0-2 in duals.