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Warriors win water polo season opener


Last updated 9/2/2021 at 1:46pm

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Fallbrook High School's boys water polo team traveled to the Alga Norte Aquatic Center in Carlsbad to open the Warriors' season Aug. 19 against San Dieguito Academy and returned home with a 15-11 victory.

"I was pleased with where we're starting off," said Fallbrook coach Bill Richardson.

Fallbrook actually started competition in the Aug. 12 Coach Draz Boys Water Polo Classic, although the win over Eastlake doesn't count in the Warriors' overall record. The California Interscholastic Federation's San Diego Section utilizes pre-season tournament matches to fund travel of section teams to state meets and tournaments.

The boys and girls water polo tournaments began in 2006 and are named after Dick Draz, who was Crawford High School's water polo coach from the program's inception in 1969 to 1986 (Draz was also Crawford's swim coach from 1963 to 1987) and who subsequently refereed water polo matches and organized the CIF San Diego Section tournament.

Draz will be 91 in November and is no longer involved with CIF sports other than the use of his name and his attendance (the CIF gave him a lifetime pass in 2011). Fallbrook's girls played in the inaugural Coach Draz Girls Water Polo Classic in November 2006, but the boys had not previously participated in that tournament.

The 2021-22 program has 26 boys, including nine seniors. Richardson placed 14 on the varsity team and 12 on the junior varsity squad. "We do have some novice players, but we don't have a novice team," he said.

During the 2020-21 season, 13 players practiced with the varsity, although some of those competed in JV games when the opponent had both varsity and JV squads. All 13 of those players are returning.

"We didn't graduate a single player from last year," Richardson said.

The 13 varsity players Richardson had last year will be complemented by sophomore Skyler Sutherland, a transfer from Huntington Beach.

Three of the Fallbrook players were given all-league honors for the 2020-21 season. Current seniors Kai Maestas and Doug Pearce were placed on the first team. Ian Ritchie, who is now a junior, was a second-team selection. The 2020-21 Warriors were 4-1 in Valley League play, giving them second in the standings behind Mount Carmel, and finished with an overall record of 13-4 after a win over Mater Dei and a loss to Helix in the CIF Division II playoffs.

The 2021-22 season opener required Fallbrook to overcome a deficit. "They got two quick goals right away," Richardson said.

San Dieguito Academy scored three goals in the first quarter but none in the second period. "Our defense started coming together and our offense came together in the second half," Richardson said.

The halftime score was 5-3. "It just took us a little while to get going," Richardson said.

The Mustangs went to a more offense-oriented style in the second half in an effort to erase the Warriors' lead. "They started taking some shots from way outside," Richardson said.

A player with three exclusion fouls is "majored," or removed for the remainder of the game, so Richardson also had to prevent some of his starters from being assessed that third exclusion. "We had a couple of guys with two fouls, so they had to sit on the bench," he said.

Pearce had seven goals, four assists, four steals, and one field block against the Mustangs. Ritchie provided two goals, two assists, three steals, and three blocks. Maestas also scored two goals and added three assists, and senior Sam Grantham placed two shots into the net. A goal apiece was scored by senior Jake Martin and junior Jono Nelson; Martin also contributed an assist.

Although senior Brock Bushnell and junior Brayden Bender didn't finalize any goals, each had two assists with Bender obtaining two steals and Bushnell having one steal. Three steals and an assist were recorded by senior Tegan Cannon. Sutherland had three field blocks.

Both of Fallbrook's goalkeepers are seniors. Matt Herbert played the first half against San Dieguito and had two saves and one steal. Quinn Hearn made five saves and one steal in the second half.


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