COSTA MESA — After his team defeated Saddleback by seven goals in the Grafton Weiss Memorial Tournament on Sept. 22, Costa Mesa High boys' water polo coach Justin Taylor said he expected a closer game in league.
Instead, what he got was an even stronger effort from his team.
Senior Wyatt Ferris scored eight goals as Mesa started strong and never looked back, blitzing Saddleback, 16-4, in the important Orange Coast League match Wednesday at Costa Mesa High.
With three league matches remaining, Costa Mesa is tied for first in league with Laguna Beach and Godinez.
Wednesday's game was only close at the very beginning. By the end of the first quarter, the Mustangs had jumped out to an 8-1 lead on Saddleback, which finished second in league last year.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little surprised at how well we came out," Taylor said.
The Mustangs (9-2, 2-0 in league) countered effectively. Sophomore Deighton Tachiki-Urias scored back-to-back counter goals near the end of the quarter, then Ferris stole the ball and scored again.
Mesa had a 10-3 advantage by halftime.
Tachiki-Urias finished with four goals and a game-high five steals. Senior Quinn Stone, juniors Tyler Connors and Mason Cooper and sophomore Nick Lewis all scored single goals for the Mustangs. Lewis and Ferris each drew three ejections.
Defensively, Taylor said his team keyed on Diego Lupercio and Anthony Gonzalez of Saddleback (7-8, 0-2). Lupercio had three goals for the Roadrunners but Gonzalez was held scoreless.
Taylor said he was just as impressed with how the Mustangs finished the game, outscoring the Roadrunners, 8-3, over the final three quarters.
"We came out like a house on fire in the first period, but then they finished the game solid as well," Taylor said. "It was a total team effort ... Kudos to them for rising to the occasion today. We're up and down, and today was a good day to be on. They responded well today."
Sophomore goalie James Rydjeski had seven saves, including one on a five-meter penalty shot. He also anchored a defense that held Saddleback scoreless in nine man-up opportunities.
Costa Mesa converted two of its seven power-play chances.
Tachiki-Urias said assistant coach Kyle Thorsness, a Mesa alumnus who finished up playing collegiately last year at the University of La Verne, has been helping the team with setting and guarding two meters. The Mustangs have several players who can do both.
"We just came out hard and played our game," Tachiki-Urias said. "It helps build our confidence, knowing that we're playing good teams and beating them."
The Mustangs play next against Godinez next Wednesday. It is another key game if they hope to return to the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs.