COSTA MESA — The scheduled 3:15 p.m. start time came and went Thursday afternoon, and there were no referees to be found on the Costa Mesa High pool deck.
Mustangs boys’ water polo Coach Justin Taylor made some phone calls. He said there was some confusion with the referee assigner, but the confusion was resolved and the match started about a half-hour late.
“Fortunately, one of the nice things about our sport is that these guys make themselves available,” Taylor said. “I was able to get ahold of the assigner, and he was able to get some officials out here at the last minute.”
Once they got there, the action the referees did the most was signal the cap number of the Costa Mesa player who just scored. The Mustangs routed Savanna, 20-0, in their season opener.
Taylor said the Rebels are rebuilding, as they graduated eight seniors last year. As for Mesa, the Mustangs have an interesting mix of talent this year. There are returning senior starters in Wyatt Ferris, Quinn Stone and Quan Nguyen. Ferris was the team’s leading scorer last year.
The Mustangs also have three sophomore starters in Nick Lewis, Deighton Tachiki and goalie James Rydjeski. Lewis scored a team-high four goals Thursday and junior Tyler Connors, also working at two meters, had three goals.
Taylor said the team goal this year is to get back to the CIF Southern Section playoffs. This year, the Mustangs moved up to Division 2.
Last year, Costa Mesa went 20-7 and advanced to the Division 3 wild-card round.
“That’s kind of a tough act to follow,” Taylor said. “I think these guys are up to the challenge, though. These sophomores, they’ve earned their positions. We have some very talented sophomores coming up through the program. You mix that in with our seniors, our three returning players, and I think we have a recipe for success.”
Tachiki, Sagang Wee, Quinn Smith, Mason Cooper and Matt Brown each scored two goals Tuesday for Mesa. Justin Velasquez, Raymond Andrade and Victor Gonzalez also found the back of the cage.
Tachiki had a team-high four steals for the Mustangs, who led, 11-0, after the first quarter.
“The sophomores and the younger players got in there and scored,” Ferris said. “It builds confidence for them.”
Rydjeski, the goalie, also built confidence. He said he was pretty nervous all day before making his first varsity start, but he finished with 10 saves and helped preserve the shutout. He also made at least one standout save, on a quick backhand shot from Robert Bell of Savanna.
“That was scary,” Rydjeski said. “I thought that was going in for sure ... I think [this match] was a good chance for us to practice our defense. We’ve been working on the new gap defense, which we haven’t mastered yet, but it was a very good opportunity to do that.”
Another good opportunity will come in the Mustangs’ next contest, at home against Yorba Linda on Monday. Taylor said he expects that to be a close match, and the team would love to get more fan support in that game as well.
If it’s a hot day it won’t be a problem, as there were new shade awnings recently installed on the Costa Mesa High pool deck.
“I promise the refs will be here this time,” Taylor said.