Water Polo Wilson

CIF Boys’ Water Polo: Wilson Cruises To Playoff Opening Win

The562’s coverage of aquatic sports in Long Beach is sponsored by the Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.

Everything went according to plan for Wilson boys’ water polo in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Wednesday at Belmont Outdoor Pool.

The Bruins showed championship-level focus and intensity while still having fun in a dominating victory over Aliso Niguel 15-8. Wilson advances to the second round at Foothill on Saturday.

“This is a sport we all love and we’re all passionate about it, so why should we be playing it if we’re not having fun?” Wilson senior Antonio Loria-Apuzzo said.

Loria-Apuzzo set the tone for his team by scoring three of his four goals in the first quarter. After missing a long stretch of the season due to a serious concussion, Loria-Apuzzo was extra motivated to leave his mark on the last game he played at Belmont Outdoor Pool.

“I took it upon myself to play well because I haven’t been proud of how I’ve been playing lately… I just took care of business by giving it my all,” Loria-Apuzzo said. “With all that happened with the concussion and being out for so long, I wasn’t there fully, mentally or physically. To get back to where I am today is a great feeling.”

“He is such a fantastic leader and he’s had a real up and down season,” Wilson coach Zac Polmanteer said of Loria-Apuzzo. “He’s had injuries throughout his career, so to see him play so well in a do or die game in his last game at home… to see him put up that performance and see him put his foot on the gas pedal from the start was so fun to watch. I’m very happy for him.”

This senior class for Wilson leaves with a perfect playoff record at home.

“We focused intensity on the things we wanted to do, and when we succeeded, we looked for the next opportunity to do it again,” Polmanteer said. “We were really trying to live in the moment.”

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Aliso Niguel scored first just 15 seconds into the game, but didn’t score again until there were two minutes left in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Loria-Apuzzo and fellow senior Wyatt Mitchell put the home side up 4-2 after one quarter.

“They had the first (goal) right off the bat that we weren’t ready for, but after that everything else was locked down,” Mitchell said. “Defense is all a mentality, it’s toughness. If you don’t have defense, what do you have?”

Wilson had seven field blocks in the game, including three from Keegan Abing, and goalkeeper Ace Dumont finished with four saves. 

“The field blocks are critical, it’s what we’ve been harping on all year,” Polmanteer said. “That was the deciding factor. (Aliso Niguel) has some shooters who they wanted to get the ball to, and we couldn’t stop the ball from getting there so the next best thing is to not let the ball get to goal. I think we did a good job of that.”

In the second quarter, Jackson Geiger scored two of his game-high five goals to keep Aliso Niguel close, but a pair of 5-meter penalty shots from Mitchell and Eli Vince made it 7-4 at halftime. Vince scored a hat trick.

The Bruins locked down defensively and held Aliso Niguel scoreless in the third quarter while building a 12-4 lead. The visitors pulled closer in the fourth quarter when Wilson got all of its players into the pool.

Now Wilson turns its attention to practice this week in preparation for Foothill.

“We have to sharpen the blade and make sure everything is good on the defensive end, especially against a better opponent at their place,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be intense.”

Game time for Saturday is yet to be determined.

VIDEO: Wilson vs. Aliso Niguel, CIF Boys’ Water Polo
PHOTOS: Wilson vs. Aliso Niguel, CIF Boys’ Water Polo
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.