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To the very last second, the Cabrillo boys’ water polo team kept fighting. The Jaguars knew they had reached the end of their historic season in Wednesday evening’s CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinal game on the Westside. But despite trailing Ayala big, the Jags kept pushing for goals, kept getting up for field blocks, and kept making saves in the cage.
It was the same fighting spirit that led them to a program-record 19 wins this season, to the semifinals for the second time ever, to the longest win streak (nine) in program history, and the most playoff wins in the highest division in program history. That’s why the mood on the pool deck was still so positive after the team’s 15-4 defeat to Ayala.
“The guys are in good spirits,” said Cabrillo coach Lawrence Durand. “We had some fundamental breakdowns. But we had a great season, and most importantly these guys all grew as men, as young men. They went from guys who were immature and doing silly things to coming together as a team and producing this great season. So I told them, it happens. You can’t win them all—but they tried, and they prepared and trained like champions.”
The Jaguars were stunned a bit in a first quarter that saw the Bulldogs take a 5-0 lead as Cabrillo struggled to move the ball on offense, and the Bulldogs happily got steals, countered, and scored quickly, taking a 3-0 lead in the first 2:30 of the game.
“We wanted our guys to not pay attention to the crowd, to not be too excited about the crowd,” said Durand. “I told the guys be heroic, but don’t make hero moves. We were trying to do too much, and Ayala countered. You can’t turn it over against a good team like them.”
The first quarter would have been even tougher if not for a good performance by goalie Humberto Salazar, who had four saves in the first quarter including one on a 5-meter penalty shot; Salazar finished with 13 saves in the game.
The Jags offense battled back in the second quarter, after falling behind 6-0. First, Emilio Jimenez scored on a 5-meter penalty earned during a Jags man-up opportunity. Then after Salazar saved another penalty shot on the other end, the Jags pushed the ball and got a score by Aharon Villegas-Resendiz. Villegas-Resendiz stole the ball on the following possession and the Jags earned a man-up, giving them the chance to cut the lead to 6-3. But despite three shots they couldn’t convert, and the Bulldogs would end up putting home three scores to close the half at 9-2.
The Jaguars defense kept playing hard in the second half, as Sam Hernandez and Jimenez both had field blocks and steals in the third, but the Bulldogs would score another three goals on counters following Cabrillo turnovers. Cabrillo finished their scoring with a steal and counter by Villegas-Resendiz and a man-up conversion in the fourth by Jimenez.
“All of our wins in the playoffs were over contenders, this was a great Division 5 bracket and there were tough teams in every round,” said Durand, who thought this year’s Jags team was worthy of the history it made. “COVID we had one of our best teams and we didn’t get to play in the playoffs—we’ve had good teams here. This year’s team like all our teams was always ready to go.”
Cabrillo was led by two goals apiece from Villegas-Resendiz and Jimenez, while Ayala was led by five goals apiece from Kane Wokelich and Ben Trull, as well as two goals apiece by Colin Moulqueen and Donavan Thomas.