Water Polo Drama Unfolds at Mt. SAC, Bonita Edged 9-8 — TONS OF PHOTOS!

November 18, 2010
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Bonita's Kevin Webb, No. 11, draws the close attention of Aaron Valdes.

Bonita's Kevin Webb, No. 11, draws the close attention of Aaron Valdes.

Had Shakespeare or Tolstoy been alive, they would have written about it. If Cecil DeMille were still among us, he would have directed it. The water polo match between La Serna and Bonita had that much drama and excitement.

Consider that Bonita’s main hero, Alec Williams, was killed off two and a half minutes before this four-act drama ended. With his ejection from the game, after his third penalty, you’d think Bonita’s fortunes were sunk, but his crewmates pressed on, firing twice at the Lancers’ goal to try to tie the game — the second attempt more powerful than the first, the last coming seconds before the game-ending buzzer, — but both efforts were repulsed. La Serna had lanced the troublesome Bearcats once and for all, 9-8.

At the start of the contest, it appeared La Serna was going to run away with the victory. After Bonita knotted the score, 2-2, the Lancers went on a 4-0 run to enjoy a comfortable 6-2 lead.

“Their counter was working beautifully,” Bonita coach John Ashby said. “We tended to watch a little too much.”

Every minute, every play was hotly contested.

Every minute, every play was hotly contested.

La Serna was passing unselfishly and scoring well. Blake Chien, Kris Kohout, Aaron Valdes, Mitchell Embry, Philip Nugent and Oliver Carter each accounted for one of the Lancers’ six goals. For Bonita, Keaton Renta got the Bearcats on the board first on an assist from Kevin Webb, and Williams poured in a penalty shot before La Serna pushed the lead to 6-2.

Then with a little more three minutes left in the first half, Williams broke the spell on an assist from Webb to halve the margin to 6-3.

At the half, Bonita’s fans could sense the team’s frustration. La Serna seemed to be making the most of its opportunities while the Bearcats had failed to convert a couple of golden ones. A couple of missed attempts by Bonita helped trigger a couple of easy breaks for La Serna, and that was the difference.

Webb to Renta was a winning combination all season long.

Webb to Renta was a winning combination all season long.

The third quarter, however, belonged to Bonita, which outscored La Serna 3-1 in the period. Bonita goalie Caleb Guarino blocked Valdes’ penalty shot. Then with 4:04 left, Renta scored his second goal for the Bearcats to narrow La Serna’s lead to 6-4. At the 2:28 mark, Williams took his second penalty shot and converted again, the ball skipping past the outstretched fingers of Michael Skinas. Suddenly, Bonita was down just a point.

Guarino registered another block. The Lancers stole the ball back, and then Bonita stole it back again. Each trip up the pool became more frantic for each team. Finally, La Serna was able to right the ship when Nugent dumped in a goal with 15 seconds left. Then to La Serna’s surprise, Williams answered right back with his fourth goal as the third quarter clock was expiring. It was a stunning turn. It was 7-6 La Serna with seven minutes left to play.

Early in the fourth, La Serna couldn’t take advantage of the man-down situation. Yet, the Lancers got the benefit of a referee’s call. A ball hovered at the goal before being counted as a score, drawing the ire of coach Ashby. His protest drew a cautionary yellow card. The real harm, however, for Bonita, was La Serna now had reclaimed some momentum and some much-needed breathing room. Being two goals down to a top team gave Bonita another uphill battle.


Then the Bearcats struck again at the 3:16 mark, Webb connecting with Renta for the score, which was now 8-7 La Serna.

After a Bonita miss to tie, La Serna’s Kevin Rubio scored on an assist from Valdes to push the Lancers’ lead to 9-7 with 2:28 to play. After Bonita was stopped again, La Serna got out on a break again, but Guarino made a great goalie save to keep the game within reach for Bonita.

The roller coaster wasn’t over for the Bearcats. Williams, citied for his third penalty, was done for the night. Bonita would have to go it alone without its star quarterback. Then when things looked their bleakest, Renta scored his fourth goal for Bonita, edging the Bearcats within one point, 9-8, with 1:31 left.

With 33 seconds left, Bonita got off two final shots. Nick Wallman had a good look, but his shot was blocked. After a La Serna time-out with 12 seconds left, the Lancers were looking to run out the clock, but the swarming Bearcats stole the ball. A frantic pass in the middle found Renta in good position to fire the game-tying goal. The fans of both teams were standing, but Renta’s solid shot attempt was blocked.

To their credit, La Serna never allowed Bonita to tie the game or quite seize the momentum. The Lancers had their victory by the squeakiest of margins.



Deeply disappointed, his voice all but gone, Ashby was still gracious in defeat. La Serna’s early burst was too much of a deficit to overcome even for the Bearcats. They had done it Palm Springs, but like Zenyatta, the Bearcats couldn’t make that last push, falling inches short.

Ashby wanted to talk about Williams’ gutty play, feeling downcast that his star had to watch the last minutes of his fabulous high school career on the sidelines. “My hat’s off to that kid,” Ashby said. “As hard as he works, he’s going to make some program next year very happy. He will deeply missed.”

On the upside, Bonita has 11 juniors returning. Bonita was a couple of waves or ripples from tying or winning the game. That’s what the 11 juniors will have to remember – a few inches of effort is often all that separates winning from losing.

Champion of the Hacienda league, Bonita finished the season 20-12.

Ashby is into it.

Ashby is into it.

Zach on the attack.

Zach on the attack.

Williams played out of the water and out of his mind all night long.

Williams played out of the water and out of his mind all night long.














Above photos by the incomparable Tom Lines! For more photos from Suzana Munson, see below:

Save money on all your printer refills by going to Cartridge World in the Target Center. Owner Susan Wang’s son Matt is a driver on the Hacienda champion Bearcats.

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Team Bonita!

Team Bonita!


Bonita rises up!

Bonita rises up!


Alex Munson centers up.

Williams applies smothering defense.

Williams applies smothering defense.



One Response to “Water Polo Drama Unfolds at Mt. SAC, Bonita Edged 9-8 — TONS OF PHOTOS!”

  1. Thank you for such a well written story about our Bearcat water polo boys. They worked hard throughout the whole year and your story was a great reward.

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