Heading into the season, the St. Francis High water polo team looked to accomplish something it hadn’t done since bringing the program back in 2015.
With an efficient core in place, the Golden Knights set forth to make their inaugural appearance in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
St. Francis did that and much more, advancing to a semfinal match.
With Cole Marston and Robert Alietti leading the charge, St. Francis accomplished a great deal, as the duo secured All-CIF Southern Section Division V first-team recognition after the CIF Southern Section office unveiled its selections for all seven divisions Monday.
“They both had incredible seasons,” said St. Francis co-coach Brady Lowdermilk, who split the coaching chores with Carlos Ponce. “They practiced hard in the offseason and in the weight room to get stronger.
“In a lot of ways, they were like assistant coaches. I’m glad to see them get honors like this.”
Marston, a senior goalkeeper, and Alietti, a junior driver, picked up first-team hardware for the first time. Behind the duo, St. Francis finished 28-4, 2-3 in the competitive Mission League for fourth place. Second-seeded St. Francis fell to No. 3 Trabuco Hills, 9-7, in a semifinal match.
Marston, a four-year varsity starter, registered 211 saves in 30 matches. He averaged seven saves per match.
“Cole was the first person to come to play water polo at St. Francis,” Lowdermilk said. “Past guys, came here and knew about water polo, but he came to make himself a complete player.
“He deserved to shine on the biggest stage and that’s the playoffs. He made so many big saves throughout the season.”
Alietti proved to be a quintessential play-maker for the Golden Knights.
Alietti collected a team-high 165 goals to go along with 71 assists and 55 steals in 30 contests. He averaged 5.5 goals, 2.36 assists and 1.83 steals per match.
“Robert was the second player to come here to play water polo and he responded with a big season,” Lowdermilk said. “He had 69 goals last season and he did what he needed to do to get better.
“He’s tall and has that left-handed shot which is hard to defend. He’s just very competitive and he’ll fight to score.”
In its historic playoff drive, St. Francis defeated Cathedral, 20-7, Buena Park, 19-7, and Burroughs, 9-8, before falling to Trabuco Hills.
Matthew Rodriguez of Mission Viejo, a junior, was named the division’s player of the year. Top-seeded Mission Viejo defeated Trabuco hills, 6-4, in the championship match.