By Keith Lair, SGVN
Five goals is a monumental task to overcome against the top-seeded team in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 water polo tournament.
But Damien High School almost did it. The Spartans, who were not expected to reach the semifinal round, closed the gap on No. 1 seed Agoura before falling, 8-6, on Wednesday in the CIF-SS semifinals at the Woollett Aquatics Center at Irvine High.
“The problem is that we came out slow,” Damien coach Grant Miller said. “They are a good team and to be able play with the best shows where we’ve come from and hopefully where we’re headed.”
Agoura will play Santa Barbara for the title on Saturday at Woollett.
The Dons defeated Laguna Beach, 9-7, in an earlier game.
The Chargers defense, led by goalkeeper Dominick Beaudine, got Agoura (24-5) out to a 5-0 lead 30 seconds into the second half.
Beaudine stopped nine of Damien’s 15 shots in the first half.
“We had some mental lapses on defense and they took advantage and scored some goals,” utility Matthew Maier said. “We gave up way too many shots from, 2 meters that we shouldn’t have and from being a man up.”
The Chargers scored six of their goals when they had a six-on-five advantage. Damien
was called for nine ejections. Agoura was called for seven ejections.
“They scored on those extra-man defense,” Miller said. “That’s the most important part of the game. If you cannot succeed at that, you’re not going to win the game and unfortunately we did not come through in that aspect.”
But the Spartans, the Sierra League champions who finished 19-11, were far from out of it.
“I’m very proud of my team,” Maier said. “We lost four of our top scorers from last year. We were not supposed to make it out of the quarterfinals. But we played them within two goals. I just love the heart of the team. We fought back.”
Travis Camochan, Stephen Osterberg and Samuel Wallman all scored off of third-quarter power plays – Damien had only one power-play attempt in the first half – to close the gap to 7-3. The Spartans then had a bunch of opportunities to close the gap even further.
“When that first one went in in the second half our confidence picked up and we were able to put a few more in there,” Miller said.
Stephen Warnick missed on a wrap-around shot attempt at the third-quarter buzzer. It was stopped by Beaudine. The Spartans practically started the fourth quarter a man up when Andrew Moore was ejected, but Warnick’s skip shot went wide.
Damien goalkeeper Kyle Garwick then stepped up big. He stopped everything the Chargers threw at him, not giving up a goal for 6 minutes, 57 seconds, three seconds shy of a complete quarter.
Beaudine was just as effective. An Osterberg shot went off the goal post and Agoura failed to score on two shots with a man advantage.
The Chargers got to the Spartans on their second man advantage of the quarter to increase their lead to 8-3. Travis Adkins answered back to make it 8-4 with three minutes to play.
The Spartans, playing more desperate in the final minutes, cut the lead to 8-5 when Camochan scored from the outside with 1:41 left.
Maier then stole the ball and was immediately fouled with a one-on-one fastbreak on Beaudine. He did not get the 5-meter penalty shot, but he quickly passed the ball back and then got it right back to score to make it 8-6 with 1:17 remaining.
“It was very nice for us to come back and make it a game,” Miller said. “It was nice that our guys never give up.”
Garwick, who had seven saves, got a stop and Miller called timeout with 55 seconds to play. But Adkins’ shot bounced off the goal post and the Chargers were able to run out the clock.
“We certainly set (Beaudine) with some nice shots, but he did a great job in the cage in the first half,” Miller said.
Beaudine finished with 12 saves. Camochan led the Spartans with two goals.