IRVINE — Huntington Beach’s boys water polo team and James Rozolis-Hill made the most of their opportunities Saturday night at the S & R Sport tournament.
The Oilers followed the lead of their senior who missed the spring season due to the pandemic to bounce back from a self-described humbling fourth-place finish at the South Coast Tournament.
Rozolis-Hill scored five goals and recorded two of Huntington Beach’s eight field blocks en route to a 9-6 victory against improving Foothill in the finals at the Woollett Aquatics Center.
In defending their tournament title, the Oilers improved to 15-2 but more importantly made strides defensively, an area that hurt them in losing the third-place match to Sacred Heart Prep at the South Coast.
Huntington Beach plays Surf League rival Newport Harbor on Wednesday.
“After the South Coast, we were pretty (upset),” Rozolis-Hilll said. “Team defense, that’s what we needed to focus on. Covering for each other. Getting field blocks, and at the end of the day, being explosive in the zone (defense).”
Huntington Beach’s Nikola Mirkovic and Ryder Dodd also had two field blocks apiece to support goalie Gabriel Haddad, who had 11 saves and two steals.
Dodd, an impressive sophomore, guarded 2 meters without taking an exclusion, utilizing his strong positioning and swimming.
Huntington Beach blanked Foothill (10-5) in the fourth period and didn’t allow a goal for the final eight minutes and 32 seconds.
Rozolis-Hill scored twice in the Oilers’ key 4-0 run that began late in the second quarter and opened a 7-5 lead with 2:15 left in the third.
The 6-foot-5 center and Harvard commit didn’t play in the coronavirus-shortened spring season because he has two family members who have autoimmune challenges. Rozolis-Hill returned to play for Vanguard in June, helping the club take a silver at the Junior Olympics.
“It was difficult,” Rozolis-Hill said of not playing his junior season. “I had a good support system luckily to kind of help me through everything and then the training helped me but it did get tough a couple months.
“But luckily school was going well. My family was doing well, and that’s the important thing – just my family staying healthy.”
Jack Matos and emerging junior Bronson Birdsall each scored twice for Foothill while junior goalie Riley Clansen added six saves.
Both teams defended the power-play well. Each side finished 3 for 8.
“We’re making progress,” said Foothill coach Jim Brumm, whose team placed 12th at the South Coast Tournament.
In the third-place match:
De La Salle 17, Los Alamitos 16 (OT): Caleb Francisco scored seven goals in the loss for the Griffins.
COSTA MESA — Los Alamitos’ boys water polo team might not be part of a high-profile league or have much recent experience in the Division 1 playoffs but the Griffins showed Thursday that their scrappy style can knock off a heavyweight.
Attacker Caleb Francisco and Nicholas Keane each scored five goals as the No. 9 Griffins defeated reigning Trinity League champion and No. 8 Santa Margarita 13-9 in a first-round match at the South Coast Tournament at Costa Mesa.
Los Alamitos (2-2) later fell to top-seeded Huntington Beach 16-7 in the second round but the Griffins showcased a strong press and dedicated counterattack against the Eagles (3-3).
The reigning Wave League champion Griffins forced at least five turnovers in each period and led for the final 21 minutes, 34 seconds of the match.
Francisco added three steals to help lead the defense. Junior goalie Tomas De Luca added six saves in his matchup against Santa Margarita goalie Zach Cwertnia (seven saves).
Los Alamitos led 9-4 at halftime before Santa Margarita trimmed its deficit to 9-7 in the third. But the Griffins called timeout and received a steal and breakaway goal from sophomore Cole Francisco to end the Eagles’ surge.
Keane then scored the first two goals of the fourth, converting a strike from center and power-play chance to give the Griffins a 12-7 lead.
Junior Nick Leung added two goals for Los Alamitos, which competed in the Division 2 playoffs in 2019 and 2018.
Nicholas Ohlson scored three goals to lead the Eagles while Spencer Averitt added four assists and played strong 2-meter defense.
In the quarterfinals Friday at 6 p.m., Huntington Beach will face Surf League foe Laguna Beach, which beat The Bishop’s 12-10 in the second round.
In other results, Mater Dei defeated Loyola 13-8 to advance to the quarterfinals to take on Trinity League rival Orange Lutheran, 14-8 winner against Oaks Christian.
Newport Harbor also reached the quarterfinals and will play host Harvard-Westlake.
Sacred Heart Prep and Cathedral Catholic will meet in the other quarterfinal at Foothill.
NEWPORT BEACH Some of the chatter going into the coronavirus-shortened water polo season pegged the Huntington Beach High boys as the best squad in Orange County.
The Oilers provided support for that claim on Wednesday, March 10.
Huntington Beach piled up six goals in the first period, never trailed and became the first Orange County team since 2017 to beat host Newport Harbor in a 17-11 triumph in the Surf League.
The past two seasons, Harvard-Westlake has mostly been the only school to defeat Newport Harbor but the Oilers accomplished it in impressive fashion Wednesday.
“It’s a big one for us,” Huntington Beach coach Sasa Branisavljevic said. “We are still growing and learning, and we want to get even better than this but to beat Newport at home, we’ve been waiting for it for a long time.”
The last county team to sink the Sailors was Mater Dei during the 2017 postseason. The Oilers also beat Newport Harbor that fall at the South Coast Tournament but not in league. Huntington Beach’s last league victory against the Sailors came from its 2016 team, the best in school history and CIF-SS Division 1 runner-up that fall.
Huntington Beach (2-0, 2-0) racked up the goals by balancing a swift counterattack with timely production from center.
Freshman Ryder Dodd paced the Oilers with six goals, including three on the counterattack. He also saved a goal late in the third period by sprinting behind goalie Gabe Haddad to grab a deflected shot before it floated into the cage.
Dodd’s UCLA-bound brother Chase added three goals but fueled the 2-meter attack led with several outstanding entry passes into center en route to three assists.
Senior center Tyler Padua scored one goal and drew four exclusions. Center James Rozolis-Hill didn’t play because of precautionary reasons, Branisavljevic said, but Ethan Spoon came off the bench to score from set.
Emerging left-hander sophomore Zach Bettino added four goals, including two in the opening period, while Hadded finished with 10 saves.
Chase Dodd credited his team’s counterattack and mentality for the victory.
“Probably the constant counterattack all four quarters,” he said. “They actually played really, really well on the counter defense but we just kept doing it.”
Chase Dodd added that his team viewed the match as an opportunity not to be wasted.
“We’re fortunate we actually get the season,” the senior said. “For the past year, we never knew we were going to have a season. If it’s just a short, six games, we really want to make the most out of it.”
UCLA-bound center Eli Liechty led Newport with four goals and drew three penalty shots in the opening frame. The Sailors converted two of their four penalty shots in the game.
Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair said fitness was a factor for his squad, which beat rival Harvard-Westlake on Monday. “We came off a good win on Monday, (and) had a hard practice yesterday,” he said. “It’s hard to back that up when you don’t train for 11 1/2 months consistently.”
The teams will play the second-round of the league on March 19 at Newport Harbor. The Sailors face another tough non-league foe Saturday with Loyola. “We’re just excited to play,” Sinclair said.
Day 1 scores from the Steve Pal Memorial boys water polo tournament:
Santiago/Corona 9, Northwood 8
Palos Verdes 9, South Pasadena 5
Beckman 6, San Marcos 3
Laguna Beach 16, La Canada 5
Palos Verdes 12, Santiago/Corona 7
Northwood 10, South Pasadena 6
Laguna Beach 15, Beckman 7
San Marcos 11, La Canada 1
Group winners: Laguna Beach, Palos Verdes
At Villa Park
Villa Park 13, Claremont 5
La Serna 15, Temescal Canyon 5
Damien 13, Rio Mesa 8
Ayala 10, Clovis North 8
La Serna 15, Villa Park 8
Temescal Canyon 16, Claremont 11
Damien 12, Ayala 10
Clovis North 7, Rio Mesa 5
Group winners: Damien, La Serna
Santa Barbara 11, Esperanza 6
Dana Hills 12, Flintridge Prep 4
Canyon Crest 10, Servite 8
Mira Costa 11, Cerritos 3
Dana Hills 11, Santa Barbara 7
Esperanza 10, Flintridge Prep 3
Mira Costa 13, Canyon Crest 5
Servite 13. Cerritos 9
Group winners: Dana Hills, Mira Costa
At Yorba Linda
La Jolla 11, Yorba Linda 7
Redlands East Valley 12, Moorpark 2
Righetti 12, Notre Dame 7
De La Salle 12, Vista Murrieta 2
Redlands East Valley 6, La Jolla 3
Moorpark 5, Yorba Linda 0
De La Salle 10, Righetti 7
Vista Murietta 15, Notre Dame 9