Before Royal High opened its Marmonte League water polo season Wednesday against Agoura, Steve Snyder said he hoped his team would measure up to the standards of past Highlander squads.
It took a while for the coach to find out, but Royal, ranked No. 7 in Southern Section Division II, was able hold off the Chargers and win in overtime, 9-7, extending its home league winning streak to 59 games, a run dating to 1986.
"I never expected that kind of game based on what I'd seen," Snyder said. "It shocked us. I have to give all the credit to Agoura because they played a great match and their game plan seemed to work for 98% of the time."
After finishing regulation play tied, 7-7, Royal (11-5, 1-0 in league) gained momentum when senior driver Eric Dudley scored just over a minute into the extra period. Randy Owens added an insurance goal with 21 seconds left as the Highlanders outshot the Chargers, 7-1.
"I think we felt the intensity going down as we got into the game," Dudley said. "We shouldn't have let them get that close. I think we underestimated them a little bit."
Said Agoura Coach Jason Rosenthal: "We just had a few lapses. Those lapses caused us to be in a situation (in overtime) we didn't want to be in. . . . I think after the first period, we knew we could play on the same level as Royal."
Agoura (1-6, 0-1) had a chance to win in regulation with two separate one-man advantages in the final minute.
But the 35-second shot clock expired on the first opportunity and Chris Driscoll's shot was knocked away by Royal's Andy Bruininga with 10 seconds left in regulation.
Agoura, after giving up a goal halfway through the first period, took a 3-1 lead on goals by Kevin Brown, Ben Richardson and Paul Lovejoy. Charger goalie Steve Cox stopped four of Royal's first five shots.
"We tried to shut down their two best guys, and when we found out they couldn't do much without them, we knew we could play with them," Cox said. "We were happy with our performance and it will give us confidence for our next matchup with Royal."
Royal came back late in the second period with three goals, including a penalty shot by Bruininga just 14 seconds after Agoura had retaken the lead, 4-3. Bruininga led the Highlanders with three goals and Dudley had two.
After the teams traded goals to open the second half, Royal scored twice in the third period, including a behind-the-back, no-look goal by Greg Galloway.
The fourth period turned into a defensive battle, with the teams combining for only four shots. The only goal was scored midway through by Lovejoy, bringing the overtime.
"Stopping them at the end of regulation did help us," Snyder said. "Some of these players have been in this position before and they were able to step up. Agoura just played a terrific, well-coached match."