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A tough road atmosphere led to a slow start for the Wilson Bruins on Wednesday afternoon, but once they got going against rivals Long Beach Poly there was no looking back in a 23-6 Moore League win.
Wilson jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but led just 3-2 after the first quarter as the Jackrabbits were able to hang tough in friendly waters. But on the strength of their suppressing defense and trademark speed on the counter, the Bruins outscored Poly 8-1 in the second quarter and pulled away for the rest of the game.
“In this pool, it’s always loud. That’s always a factor, the crowd does a great job here,” said Wilson head coach Jeff Nesmith after the win. “But just to calm down, get some good steals and then push our counterattack, that was the difference in that second quarter and the rest of the game.”
The Bruins got six goals from senior Gray Carson, who was an imposing force on both ends of the pool. The UCLA commit scored Wilson’s first goal of the day and had four of his six goals in the first half.
“It’s always hard coming here and playing because it’s just so loud and it’s hard to communicate,” Carson said. “In the second quarter we really pulled together, we got our heads in the game, we were under control, calm, and made the right choices and played good defense. That’s what really changed it.”
Carson certainly could have scored more, but made a concerted effort to set up his teammates and even handed off a five-meter penalty shot to teammate Carson Krueger so he could finish off his hat trick. Nesmith lauded his team’s chemistry and unselfishness as they look to contend in a powerhouse Division I bracket come playoff time.
“You love to see those guys setting each other up, that’s one of the best things about water polo is when you see guys making that extra pass for their teammates,” Nesmith said. “These nine seniors have been friends for a long time, playing water polo for a long time. It’s great to see that chemistry as we go into October with the CIF stretch coming soon. You want to have that chemistry as good as you can.”
Another Wilson senior, Zac Crenshaw, had five goals of his own to help lead Wilson’s attack. Cooper Zuanich, Cameron Torres and Clinton Haltom each added a pair of goals for the Bruins while Brady Simon racked up 10 stops in the cage.
For Poly, Markus Cruz had a pair of goals to lead the Jackrabbits in scoring. Head coach Ish Pluton was pleased with his team’s overall effort in the match against a very tough opponent. The Jackrabbits are currently ranked as the No. 2 team in Division 4, and Pluton is optimistic about where his team is at despite Wednesday’s result.
“I was really pumped on the level of effort and intensity we showed continuing to chip away and push and push and run our game plan,” Pluton said. “I think if we play teams in Division 4 with that same level of intensity, we’ll be doing some cool things, some really cool things in the postseason. To be able to play a tough team like that for at least the first quarter and a half, tough and close, that to me is a good sign for when we start to play teams at our level.”
Reece Hammond opened the scoring for the Jackrabbits in the opening quarter to cut Wilson’s lead to just one goal, 2-1. Poly would again cut Wilson’s lead down to one with another first-quarter goal from Tyler Oatey. Both tallies came after a Wilson exclusion, giving the Jackrabbits a 6-on-5 advantage. Poly was 2/3 in man-up opportunities in the first quarter and went 3/6 for the game.
“I was really stoked because our 6-on-5 has been pretty strong all season, but to be able to keep it strong against a tough team like that, I was really pumped,” Pluton said. “Especially because Wilson started to run a press out on our guys during our rotation and we were able to stay calm under that pressure and work it back and find the goal.”
Wilson continues Moore League play next Wednesday hosting Cabrillo while Poly visits Jordan.