La Serna Gets the Last Splash in Dunking Bonita 11-8

October 24, 2010
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Bonita goalie Caleb Guarino had a game-high 13 saves. Photos by the incomparable Suzana Munson.

Bonita goalie Caleb Guarino had a game-high 13 saves. Photos by the incomparable Suzana Munson.

Whether you play baseball, volleyball or ping-pong, when your opponent scores the first three points at the start of the game and three of the last four at the end of the contest, you usually end up on the short of the stick. That’s what happened to the Bearcats on Saturday at La Verne’s Las Flores pool as the Bonita varsity water polo team lost to the quick-starting and fast-finishing La Serna Lancers, 11-8.

“Spotting a real good team like that three goals makes it hard to win,” Bonita head coach John Ashby said. “I just think they came a little harder than we did.”

Sporting a No. 2 ranking entering the pool and some crisp passing, La Serna got early goals from Phillip Nugent, Oliver Carter and Blake Chen to go up 3-0 with 3:19 left in the first period. Bonita finally countered with a goal from Alec Williams, set up by an assist from Kevin Webb, to trail 3-1 at the end of the period. Like a boxer in a heavyweight bout, Bonita had somehow withstood La Serna’s early withering attack, with  something still left in the tank.

In the second period, after a block by goalie Caleb Guarino, Bonita missed a point-blank scoring opportunity. Then La Serna responded with a five-meter penalty shot by Aaron Valdes to lead 4-1.

Williams took the sting off Valdes’ penalty point by scoring his second goal with 4:14 left to cut La Serna’s edge to 4-2. Then with Ashby yelling, “No rest, no rest,” from the sidelines with what little voice he had left, Williams scored again on an assist by R.J. Massro and on a penalty shot as time expired to get Bonita even at 4-4 entering the locker room at the half.

The scoring burst just before the end of the half showed the Bonita players and their fans that the Bearcats could not only swim with La Serna, but also beat them.

Bonita struck first in the second half on a goal by Keaton Renta, who determinedly rammed the shot past La Serna goalie Michael Skinas. Bonita’s first lead of the afternoon, however, was short-lived as La Serna responded with goals from Mitchell Embry and then Chen on an alert assist by Nugent – a pass and pop play run to perfection that put the Lancers back on top, 6-5.

Closely defended by La Serna's Aaron Valdes, Bonita's Alec Williams lets one fly.

Closely defended by La Serna's Aaron Valdes, Bonita's Alec Williams lets one fly.

The third-quarter dogfight continued, as Keaton scored again for Bonita with 3:38 remaining. Then Williams responded with his game-high fifth goal after scooping up the rebound of Matt Zachary’s shot that bounced off the crossbar. La Serna’s Valdes answered with a goal that just skipped under the Guarino’s outstretched right arm to knot the score at 7-7 as time expired.

In the fourth, Bonita won the swim-off and launched the first, albeit unsuccessful, shot attempt. Off the block, La Serna quickly countered, with Valdes again finishing for the Lancers to give them an 8-7 edge and, more important, a big psychological lift to start the final period. La Serna’s Chris Kohout expanded La Serna’s lead to 9-7, scoring on an assist from Chen. Then the next trip down the length of the pool Embry scored on an assist from Valdes with 3:28 left. The quick 3-0 run was reminiscent of how the first period began.

In survival mode but still patiently probing and passing the ball for the right scoring opportunity, the Bearcats found the back of the net on another clutch goal by Keaton. Now trailing 10-8, Bonita appeared poised for one last rally. Despite being a man-up in the water on its next offensive thrust, Bonita missed converting when the shot attempt flew over the goal. With time running out, La Serna got an easy breakaway to ice the game, 11-8.

“We got sideswiped by a couple of those early counterattacks,” said Ashby after the game. “That kind of deflated us, but we got our stuff back together after that.”

It’s likely these two teams could meet again in the CIF playoffs, so Ashby was philosophical about Saturday afternoon’s tough loss.

“When it comes down to it, losing the second of three is better than losing the third one,” he said.

Bonita will have to improve its inside game, take advantage of its 6-on-5s and power-play situations if it expects a different result in a potential third meeting.

“The pressure was good for us,” Ashby said. “We now understand how to take it, and hopefully we can do a better job with it the next time around.”

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