LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Expectations set at the beginning of the year by the Flintridge Prep boys' water polo team were shattered.
Prep not only appeared in the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs for the first time in five years Tuesday, but was victorious in a 8-6 win over California in a wild-card match.
"Our goal this year was to get some respect in league and see what happens if we finish .500," Rebels Coach Dan Hare said. "Now, to have a CIF win under our belt feels really good."
Prep's goalie Brian Khin, who had 11 saves and two steals in the game, said it felt good to break the playoff drought.
"It wasn't even our goal to get into CIF this year," Khin said. "It was our goal for next year. It feels amazing [to win]."
Hare wanted to build something off the experience and did so by rotating in his entire squad, including junior varsity players, into the game in the final five minutes. That led to a closer margin of victory for Prep (15-11), which went into the third quarter up, 6-2.
Carlo Sivilotti added to the four-goal lead, scoring two goals early in the fourth quarter for Flintridge Prep and finishing with a game-high four. Sivilotti first scored 50 seconds into the quarter and added another, following a Condors goal, with 5:10 left in the game, which allowed Hare to make mass substitutions.
"I am just glad I got those two goals because it got the JV guys in," said Sivilotti, who also had a match-high three steals. "They get to say they played in CIF."
The switch made the game more interesting, as California (15-10) went on a three-goal run in a four-minute span. Vince Ballesteros scored the first two goals of the run, one on a six-on-five opportunity, and Andrew Miller added another on a man-advantage with 36 seconds left to cut Prep's lead and finish the scoring at 8-6.
The game wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Rebels started the game with a four-goal run. Diego Delgado, who finished with three goals, scored the first two goals and Sivilotti added another in the last 45 seconds of the first quarter. The run continued into the second, as Sivilotti scored on the opening possession of the second quarter.
Prep built up the lead behind great defense, as it forced 22 California turnovers, three of which led to goals.
"[Defense] starts in the cage," Hare said. "Brian Khin is really playing his best of the year right now. We've played great defense against good teams. …What I liked today was we were able to bring up the offense as well."
Khin also had a hand in the offense, sparking four of Prep's goals with pin-point passes down the pool.
"We knew we were going to have a counter attack today and really wanted to make it work," Hare said. "[Khin's] passing has been incredible. That's a huge weapon for a good goalie."
The Condors first got on the board when Ben Llamas scored on a man-advantage with 5:48 remaining in the first half, cutting the lead to 4-1. They scored again when Llamas buried another shot on a man-advantage with 26 seconds left in the third. Five of California's six goals came during six-on-five chances.
Delgado and Ethan Vandeventer both had two steals in the game. Vandeventer added Prep's other goal in the game.
The Rebels will face a big test today when they travel to take on Division V's No. 2 seed, Palm Desert. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. No matter what the final result is, Hare will be using the experience as another building block for the program.
"[Palm Desert] is going to bring it, but we are bringing everyone in the program because I want them to see what it's like," Hare said. "What happens tomorrow, happens. I am very happy with this feeling."