Ocean View boys’ water polo hangs on to beat Marina

Boys’ water polo is a numbers game at Ocean View High, and the number this year is low.

Coach Melissa Fernandez said she is happy to have five new freshmen competing on her junior varsity team. That’s more than in the past, which is a good thing for the future but a difficult thing for 2018. There are just eight varsity players this season, meaning just one substitute off the bench.

“It requires the guys to one, be in great shape, and two, have the mental toughness to stay focused for an entire game,” Fernandez said. “We’re working on that, and it’s getting better. Early in the season, that seems to be a struggle, but hopefully we’ll keep getting stronger so these guys can put in a full game mentally and physically.”

Despite being held scoreless for most of the second half, Ocean View did just enough to get by Marina on Thursday in a nonleague game at home. The Seahawks hung on for a 4-3 victory after surviving a Marina power-play in the closing seconds.

Senior Will Boyd scored twice for Ocean View (3-4), while seniors Daniel Isogawa and Anthony Basaldua each scored once. Goalkeeper Nico Falcon, another senior, made eight saves.

The Seahawks led 3-1 at halftime and added to that when Boyd scored a rebound goal with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter. But it would be Ocean View’s last goal of the game.

“I feel like we can definitely play better,” said Isogawa, a utility player who also had an assist, a steal and drew an exclusion. “Today we didn’t play really cohesively. We kind of played individually, and it kind of ruined our spacing and everything. I feel like if we just play as a team, we can pinpoint where the opportunities are and get easier games, instead of one-goal, hard-fought games.”

Marina (3-12), led by first-year coach Brian Baier, came nearly all the way back. Sophomore Kolby Burke scored midway through the third quarter on the Vikings’ first six-on-five chance of the game, then senior Spencer Velek added a counterattack goal early in the fourth quarter.

Vikings freshman center Vincent Labonte nearly tied the score at 4-4 on an outside shot with three minutes left, but the ball danced on the goal line before Falcon swiped it away. Still, Marina had another great chance in the final minute after Labonte drew his team’s second power-play opportunity.

Marina didn’t get a shot off, however, and Ocean View junior Sean Headley stole a pass up top with 10 seconds left. After Fernandez called timeout, the Seahawks ran out the clock for the victory.

“We worked on six-on-five this week, and we worked on being patient,” Baier said. “I think on that play, we could have been more aggressive, but I like that the boys are looking to open up their teammates for shots. I think we took our time and we made good, crisp passes to each other. We just didn’t finish, and that’s how it goes sometimes. But they played hard and we had our chances.”

Junior Tanner Powell and senior Royce Cullen split halves and combined for eight saves in goal for Marina. Baier said Powell and Cullen are his two captains this season.

Marina opens up Wave League competition against Los Alamitos on Monday at 5 p.m. at Newport Harbor High. Ocean View continues its nonleague schedule with a game at Sage Hill on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.

The Seahawks want to continue getting stronger before Golden West League play begins Sept. 25 at Western.

“We’ve got to build up our endurance, and sometimes that takes away from skill-building drills,” Isogawa said. “But if we don’t have the endurance, those skills won’t come into play in the first place. We’ve got to build up that endurance.”

Twitter: @mjszabo