Above: Damien High’s Austin Miller shooting a shot earlier this season.
By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
Damien High School has been here before. The Spartans have advanced to the CIF-Southern Section boys water polo semifinals each of the past two seasons, only to see their season end in heartache. Damien hopes to change the recent trend when it faces Palos Verdes today at 2 p.m. in a Division 3 semifinal at William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine. The winner advances to Saturday’s championship match.
Boys Water Polo
Palos Verdes vs. Damien at William Woollett Center in Irvine, 2 p.m.
Bonita vs. La Serna at Mt. SAC, 6 p.m.
Nogales vs. Nipomo at Arroyo Grande HS, 3 p.m.
“We’re thankful to make it back and face another good team,” said Damien coach Andrew Gates, whose Spartans are seeking their first trip to the finals since losing to Riverside Poly in 2004. “We have a good opportunity to make it to the finals. We beat (Palos Verde) two weeks ago, 16-14. But when you’re dealing with 16- and 17-year-old kids, there’s no guarantees when the ball goes down tomorrow.”
But this is expected to be the No. 2 Spartans’ best chance to reach the season’s final weekend. Damien (22-4), which rolled to another Sierra League title, has advanced with wins over Estancia and Santa Monica by scores of 20-8 and 10-9, respectively.
Eric Osterberg leads the Spartans with 95 goals. But Damien also looks to Adam Sarail, who has 88 tallies, and Johnny Beal, who has set a school record with 80 assists.
Palos Verdes (22-8), the No.3 seed which won Division 4 last season, counters with Buck Doyle, who had four goals in the Sea Kings’ 12-11 victory over Peninsula in the quarterfinals.
“It’s going to come down to execution and desire, and whoever wants it more,” Gates said. “Both of us are going to be well-prepared. But whoever wants it more will win.”
La Serna vs. Bonita
The No. 3 Bearcats are looking to get back to the finals for the first time since beating Rowland in 2005.
Bonita (19-11) advanced with wins over La Salle and Palm Desert, by scores of 11-4 and 11-9, respectively. The Bearcats are led by Alec Williams and Keatin Renta, who scored four and three goals, respectively, in the quarterfinal victory over Palm Desert.
La Serna (22-6), the No. 2 seed, is led by Oliver Carter, Chris Kohout and Aaron Valdes. The trio scored three goals each in a 16-5 victory over Glendale in the quarterfinals.
Nogales vs. Nipimo
The Nobles’ biggest challenge might be the four-hour bus trip up north.
Nogales (27-2), the No. 2 seed, features a solid attack with juniors Ramon Sanchez and Nick Estevez. Sanchez scored seven goals in the Nobles’ 14-5 victory over Los Amigos in the quarterfinals.
Nipomo (19-7), the No. 3 seed, is led by Marc Baker, who had eight goals in the Titans’ 17-12 victory over Orange on Saturday.