The Ocean View and Fountain Valley high school campuses are less than three miles apart.
And, if Tuesday was any indication, the talent level of these schools’ boys water polo programs also is very close.
Fountain Valley scored three unanswered late goals to rally for a 7-6 nonleague victory over the Seahawks at Ocean View High, a game that literally wasn’t decided until the final seconds.
Senior Kyle Graham scored a game-high three goals for the Barons (4-4), who seemed to be on their way to the win after an Ocean View shot sailed high with about five seconds to play.
Fountain Valley senior goalie Jake Huynen, who made 14 saves and is a returning first-team All-Sunset League player, swam the ball into the corner. But a couple of Ocean View players alertly caused a “ball under" call. With the goal wide open, however, the Seahawks were unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer.
“A great learning moment,” first-year Fountain Valley coach Sam Figueroa said. “I’d like for him to be able to take his free throw, make a read, pass to an open man and it’s over. The pressure made him do something that he’s not used to.”
Figueroa knows about pressure and what’s required to take over a program. The former UC Irvine water polo player and former Fountain Valley assistant also coaches at Costa Mesa Aquatics Club, but this is his first high school head coaching gig.
His team has been battle-tested early with eight games already, including a ninth-place showing last weekend at the Grafton Weiss Memorial Tournament hosted by El Dorado. On Tuesday, the Barons got a pair of goals by senior Dylan LeBaron, and one each by senior Koi Pham and sophomore Justin Giang. To Figueroa, however, there was definitely room for improvement.
“How we’re executing a game plan defensively really needs to pick up,” Figueroa said. “The way we communicate on defense, that’s what led to almost every one of their goals … I’m happy with the way that we performed at the end and at least won the game. But I still think we can be much, much better and be able to perform at a place where we’re not even close in the fourth quarter to a team like that.”
Ocean View led 6-4 entering the fourth quarter. But Graham scored a rebound goal on the power play, then Pham’s quick strike from about seven meters tied the score at 6-6 with 4:43 remaining.
After a pair of saves by Huynen snuffed out an Ocean View power play, a steal by Giang led to an easy counterattack goal from Graham with 2:24 remaining. The goal would hold up as the game-winner.
“I thought we executed pretty well in the fourth quarter, other than a few six-on-fives that we kind of messed up and a few small defensive breakdowns,” Graham said. “We fought back pretty well.”
Senior Peter Carlson led Ocean View (1-1) with two goals, while seniors Kenny Do and Quinn Bosselman, as well as juniors Daniel Isogawa and Will Boyd, had one goal each. Junior goalie Nico Falcon had eight saves and four steals.
Coach Melissa Fernandez’s Seahawks, ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division 5, are playing with just eight varsity players this year, which means just one substitute off the bench. But she said it was good for her players to see that they can compete against a Sunset League team. Another chance for that comes Thursday, when they play host to Marina.
“I think it’s good for us,” Fernandez said. “I mean, our league is relatively weak. In the preseason it’s important for us to challenge ourselves … We just had a few defensive breakdowns. We gave up some easy ones, and you never want to let a team back into a game like that.”