A stiff wind blew across the deck at Cabrillo on Tuesday evening, and the Long Beach Poly boys’ water polo team rode it to history. The Jackrabbits had a total team effort in a first-round CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoff win over Buena. While Poly has won wild card games, head coach Ish Pluton said it was the Jackrabbits’ first time advancing to the second round since 1979 after the 12-5 victory.
Pluton was as happy with how the win came as he was with the victory itself.
“This is my dream job,” he said. “As a Poly alum, I feel lucky to get to coach this team, and especially a team that plays the way this one does. This win means a great deal to me.”
The Jackrabbits had five different players score their first five goals, and six players scored in all. Goalie Ethan Evans was lights out in the first half, allowing just one goal as Poly built a 5-1 lead. Evans finished with 10 saves in the game.
“This feels great,” he said. “This is the hardest working team I’ve been on—but we’re not satisfied, we have a lot more history to make. We want way more than this.”
Poly’s leading scorer was senior captain Lance Gabriel, who finished with four goals as well as two assists and two steals. Nick Cruz, Chaz Pruett, and Chase McPherson had two goals apiece, while Justin Greenwood added one. Teddy Flores had four assists and three steals.
Gabriel came up with the scores Poly needed in the second half as Buena was able to get its offense going and cut the Poly lead to three. Three of Gabriel’s goals came in the second half, with his third making it 8-3 with 4:45 left.
The senior was popped in the mouth early by a Buena defender, and he said the taste of blood helped get him going.
“Little blood in the mouth, helped wake me up,” he said with a laugh. “My coaches wanted me to play aggressive and I did, and the opponent warranted that. Took a few shots, just a good water polo game.”
The Jackrabbits’ aggressiveness offensively led to eight exclusions, which Poly converted for five goals in the victory. Sealing the “team victory” theme, Flores also went 4/4 on sprints to give Poly an extra four possessions.
The Jackrabbits will travel to top-seeded Mission Viejo Thursday evening for a second round contest.