The562’s coverage of aquatic sports in Long Beach is sponsored by the Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.
The562’s coverage of Cabrillo Athletics is sponsored by the Cohn Family.
You simply can’t script a closer water polo game than the one played on Saturday afternoon between Cabrillo and Segerstrom in West Long Beach.
Even down to the school mascots–both teams are nicknamed the Jaguars–things were remarkably even as the teams battled for a spot in the CIF-SS Division 5 semifinals. There were six lead changes and eight ties, until Cabrillo finally emerged with a 9-8 victory in overtime.
“We’ve always wanted to play the Jags versus Jags,” said Cabrillo head coach Lawrence Durand, who put on a pregame welcome for the challengers. “It was a great game, we gave the audience what they wanted. It was a tough game, you know, we made a couple of mistakes on offense, but our defense brought us home. And we stuck with the system a lot more today than it did against Warren, and it paid off.”
After a back and forth battle, it was a long range goal from Kevin Carrillo with 1:17 left in the second overtime period that proved to be the game winner.
The teams tied at every single point from 1-8, as neither side led by more than a single goal.
Cabrillo took the lead on a Sam Hernandez goal that went in off an odd deflection, then it was captain Emilio Jimenez who took over the scoring.
Jimenez netted a pair of goals in the second quarter, then quickly added two more after halftime to bring Cabrilllo back in front, 5-4. His four consecutive goals made him the top scorer of the afternoon.
Segerstrom didn’t go away, however, getting a Danny Cervantes goal off a rebound to tie things up. The visiting Jaguars went back on top as Calvin Manalo swiped a steal at the point and went on a one-man counterattack. He was fouled to set up a five-meter penalty, which he converted to give Segerstom a 6-5 edge late in the third period.
Cabrillo had a counter of its own as Jacob Jacinto went on a breakaway and delivered a perfect lob into the cage, making it 6-6 after three quarters.
That’s where the score remained at the end of the fourth, as neither offense found a breakthrough. Cabrillo goalie Beto Salazar collected 5 of his 17 saves during that fourth quarter, and was a big part of his team’s victory.
“It’s a brotherhood. Everyone counts and I count too,” said Salazar of his team. “And if I block a shot, I bring a smile to everyone’s face, even myself.”
In overtime, Segerstrom struck first on a goal in close by Manalo, but the Jags didn’t flinch. Aharon Villegas-Resendiz floated a goal over the Segerstrom goalie that just drifted into the cage, then the Jags took the lead on their next possession on a deep arching shot by Hernandez. A goal that even caught him by surprise, it appeared.
Naturally, Segerstrom tied the game in the second OT period on a nice finish from Dmitri
Sydoruk, but it wouldn’t stay tied for long.
Just 32 seconds later, Carrillo delivered one of the most meaningful goals in Cabrillo water polo history, then let out a big scream toward the home fans.
Salazar made one final save in the cage, and Cabrillo’s defensive pressure paid off to secure the 9-8 victory.
The win earns Cabrillo their third playoff win–a new program record for a single postseason–and earns the Jags their first semifinal appearance since 2018. The emotion and passion is evident from players and coaches alike, and the Jags are hoping they can keep playing and making history.
“I feel amazed. I feel proud, and I hope my mom and dad sees this, and my coaches too,” said Salazar. “If I have a bad day, water polo is what I think of. I love it.”
Thanks to a fortunate coin flip, Cabrillo will be hosting their semifinal on Wednesday, taking on No. 2 seed Ayala. That will be a rematch of a tournament game from Oct. 20, which the Bulldogs won by a score of 15-11.