On Thursday, Nov. 7, Loyola water polo blazed past Santa Margarita in the first round of CIF Playoffs in front of an impressively large student section at Mira Costa High School. Although the game stayed close throughout, the Cubs managed three goals in the closing minutes to push to a 9-6 victory.
Coach Healy’s strategy against Santa Margarita was to play the starting lineup heavily in order to ensure a painless first-round victory. While Santa Margarita seemed to be holding their own against the higher-ranked Cubs throughout the game, Senior Travis Reynolds’ deep goal in the final minutes secured Santa Margarita’s fate as the unfortunate victim of one of Loyola’s best water polo teams in recent memory.
Santa Margarita managed to put up only 14 shots, all of which either converted to goals or fell to senior star goalie Alex Mueller. Mueller recorded an impressive eight blocks and proved that even goalies can catch fire in a heated game. Even then, Santa Margarita’s shooting was no joke. Compared to Loyola’s 35% rate, Santa Margarita’s 43% shooting does not seem too impressive until you consider that Santa Margarita did not “miss” any shots — every shot either hit the back of the net or was blocked by Mueller.
Having Mueller anchoring the defense allowed the Cubs to focus heavily on offense. One standout offensive player was senior Dylan Ortiz. Ortiz was lethal when the Cubs most needed it. During a contested second and third quarter, Ortiz went in to bury two much-needed shots on 100% accuracy and push the Cubs to the victory. Without Ortiz, overtime could possibly have a part of the late-game plan.
The Cubs are looking to follow up an exciting first-round victory over Santa Margarita with sweet revenge for last year’s semi-final exit at the hands of rival Harvard-Westlake. The Cubs play in the CIF Semi-Final on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at a yet-to-be-announced location and hope to see even more students out supporting the team.