For three quarters, the Millikan boys’ water polo team battled and gave their all defensively, playing their way into a deadlock with Yorba Linda, the No. 3 team in the CIF Southern Section’s Division 4 playoffs. In the end, the Rams came up about five minutes short in a season-ending loss in the second round of the playoffs, falling 8-5.
“Every year we take another step,” said Rams coach Danely Smith, whose team was in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade. “I thought we played really well, our goalie stepped up, our seniors came ready to play.”
The Rams were the decided underdogs in the game, but didn’t play like it. They took a 1-0 lead early on a goal by Danny Chenier and then went up 2-1 after Max Miller scored late in the first quarter. Yorba Linda tied it early in the second quarter but Connor Stine gave Millikan a 3-2 lead at halftime. Yorba Linda outscored Millikan 2-1 in the third quarter but a score by the Rams’ Alex Carroll made it 4-4 headed to the fourth quarter.
Millikan goalie Kai Goeku had a tremendous first three quarters, allowing just four goals while notching nine saves. Millikan’s total team defense deserves a ton of credit as high-effort plays (field blocks, deflected passes) stifled a strong Yorba Linda attack.
The Rams offense struggled against the Yorba Linda press, and scored just one goal on seven man-up opportunities.
“Defense is always number one for us,” said Smith. “We had a little bit of an idea of what to expect and I think we were able to disrupt a lot of what they were trying to do.”
Yorba Linda wore down Millikan and in the fourth quarter put the game away in a two-minute period that saw them score three goals, breaking a 4-4 tie to take a commanding 7-4 lead thanks to back-to-back goals by Toring Stanley.
Millikan answered to cut the lead to two with 90 seconds left on a score at two meters by Maceo Glenn, but Yorba Linda quickly answered with a score by Karson Chriswell to put the game away.