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Warriors end boys water polo season 13-4 after quarterfinals loss

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

A June 10 loss in the CIF Division II quarterfinals ended the 2020-21 Fallbrook High School boys water polo season and gave the Warriors a final season record of 13-4.

"It was a great season," said Fallbrook coach Bill Richardson.

The Warriors were 4-1 in league play and 4-0 entering the June 2 game at Mount Carmel, who was also 4-0 at that point. Mount Carmel had a 7-5 halftime lead and won the 13-11 game.

"I felt like it was definitely a game we could have won," Richardson said.

Richardson noted that Fallbrook had opportunities against the Sundevils. "The ball just didn't bounce our way," he said. "It was a challenging game."

The result gave Mount Carmel a 5-0 league record and the Valley League championship. The Warriors settled for second place in the league standings.

A non-league victory June 3 at home against Oceanside concluded Fallbrook's regular season. The Warriors entered the playoffs with a 12-3 record.

A 14-6 home win May 28 against Valley Center had given Fallbrook the 4-0 league record. Eight weeks before Ramona won the CIF Division III championship, a May 14 game in Ramona ended as a 15-6 Fallbrook victory.

"We did really well. I felt like we grew as a team," Richardson said.

Normally boys water polo is a fall sport, but the CIF San Diego Section did not begin any of the 2020-21 seasons until February. Fallbrook's water polo team began practice April 19 – between the league swim meet and the CIF swim meet – and the Warriors had eight practices prior to the April 29 season opener.

The Fallbrook High School pool is one of 21 public school on-campus pools and was one of two closed during the summer of 2020 due to district reluctance (two others were closed due to work). Restrictions on the Fallbrook pool continued after it was opened for swimming and water polo.

"We had a lot of limitations on pool time," Richardson said.

The compressed seasons meant that multi-sport athletes had to choose between sports. Fallbrook had 21 boys between the varsity and junior varsity squads. None of the 2020-21 Warriors players were seniors.

"The goal was to have fun and get to know where the kids are," Richardson said.

The compressed season also eliminated tournaments other than the CIF playoff tournament. Fallbrook was given the sixth seed in the Division II playoffs.

"The top four seeds made it to the semifinals, so it looks like it was probably pretty accurate," Richardson said of the seeding.

The lack of not only playing other Division II teams in tournaments but even observing them left uncertainties about playoff opponents. "We didn't know going in how strong those teams would be," Richardson said.

The Del Norte High School pool was the site of the June 8 playoff game between Fallbrook and 11th-seeded Mater Dei. "I think they were missing some players," Richardson said of the Crusaders. "We had just lost to Mount Carmel, and our players were excited to play and get a win."

Fallbrook advanced to the quarterfinals with a 21-4 victory. The margin allowed Richardson to play substitutes. "We got a lot of kids in the pool," he said.

Third-seeded Helix and Fallbrook played each other June 10 at the Granite Hills High School pool. The Highlanders' path to the Division II final included a 14-11 victory at Fallbrook's expense.

"We had quarters where we were the better team and quarters where they were the better team, but those quarters we gave up too many goals," Richardson said.

Richardson noted that the quarters which favored Helix placed Fallbrook into a deficit. "We couldn't overcome it," he said.

"I thought the boys played strong and played hard," Richardson said. "It was a very evenly matched game."

Boys water polo will return to being a fall sport for 2021-22. The first allowable day of practice will be Aug. 2.

"Looking forward to what they'll be able to do next fall," Richardson said.


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