Photo credit to Tom Berquist.
Midway through the boys water polo season, the team’s record is 8-8 with a 2-1 record in league, and the Bears are looking forward to a playoff run.
First-year head coach Brandon Johnson commented on the season so far: “The season is going really well. Our goal each game is to be better than we were the game before, and we have been doing that. I think that expectations for our team were pretty low coming into this year. But the guys blocked all that out and continued to work and believe in both each other and the system, and it has paid off.”
The Bears recently played two games against Menlo School and Saint Francis. They lost 9-5 in a hard-fought game against Menlo and defeated Saint Francis 8-5.
Although the Bears ended up losing to Menlo, Johnson complimented his team’s performance: “I thought we played well. Menlo is a really good team who has a lot of weapons, and I thought we did a good job playing team defense to take away their first options. We weren’t afraid to attack them. Our offense has been steadily improving the whole season and I thought in this game we did a lot of good things to get good looks at the cage. We had a few breakdowns in the game on defense, mainly in the second quarter, and that was the difference. I am looking forward to playing them again in the league tournament.”
The Saint Francis game was a key win in the early season with potential playoff implications. Johnson explained, “They had beaten us 11-4 two weeks earlier, but we knew we could play better. The guys executed the game plan, and we were able to win 8-5.”
Johnson spoke about key players in the game: “Noah Smith made some big saves to help us hold onto the lead and made some great passes into tight windows to put pressure on St. Francis in transition. Ilia Dzotsenidze got us going by scoring two goals in the first quarter, and he also drew a penalty shot which Nik Caryotakis scored. Nik dominated the game on both sides of the ball and put away some really nice shots against a defense focused on stopping him. Hugo [McMillan] scored a great shot from a bad angle to put the dagger in and seal the win.”
About the game as whole, he said, “It was a great team effort and shows how much we have improved in a short period of time.”
At goalie, Smith has been dominating the league. Johnson commented, “Noah Smith has been a rock for us in the cage. It is such an advantage to have a goalie of his caliber back there as our last line of defense. He has made a ton of big saves for us so far this year.”
Junior Nik Caryotakis has been having a breakout year. Johnson said, “He is really starting to develop offensively. We ask a lot out of him as he is our go-to guy on both offense and defense, and he has been doing a great job helping lead this team.”
Many players, juniors and seniors alike, have been stepping their games up this season. Johnson is proud of the great strides they have made. “Seniors Henry Marks and Hugo McMillan, and juniors Chris Lobdell and Andy Maxwell have all played key roles for us as well, whether it be bringing energy and pushing the pace, or defending one of the top players on the other team. Lastly, Ilia Dzotsenidze has been a calming force in the middle for us. Both offensively and defensively he does the dirty work and has been a great addition for us.”
Even though Johnson is proud of the team’s performance thus far, he knows there is a lot of improvement to be made before the end of the season. “[We need] consistency. We want to play with the same intensity and the same level execution no matter who our opponent. We also need to get our six-on-five power play going a bit more.”
With some big league games remaining, including a rivalry game on October 5 versus Woodside, the Bears still have a long way to go. A solid end to the season would put them in a great position to have a Central Coast Section (CCS) run.