BWP: Royals in, Dons out after San Marcos victory

San Marcos' Shane Hauschild gets the ball in front of the goal with only SB's Jack Palmer to beat. (Presidio Sports Photo)

San Marcos’ Shane Hauschild gets the ball in front of the goal with only SB’s Sam Johnson to beat. Hauschild, who scored on the play, was one of three Royals with a pair of goals. (Presidio Sports Photo)

It’s a new day in Channel League water polo as San Marcos is headed to CIF and Santa Barbara isn’t.

The Royals completed a rare season sweep of the perennially-powerful Dons on Thursday with a 7-6 victory at Santa Barbara High. The result leaves San Marcos with a second-place finish in league and an automatic CIF berth while Santa Barbara finishes its season without a playoff appearance for the first time in Mark Walsh’s 17-year tenure as head coach.

“It means a lot for our program and our school. For so many years, we were the perennial bottom-feeder,” said Royals head coach Jeff Ashton. “To be in second and to compete for Channel League championships is something that’s been in the works for a long time.”

San Marcos' George Kuesis, left, goalie Jack Palmer, and Miles Cole, right, take away angles from shooter Tyler Heffernan.

San Marcos’ George Kuesis, left, goalie Jack Palmer, and Miles Cole, right, take away angles from shooter Tyler Heffernan.

The victory over Santa Barbara sealed San Marcos’ best regular season in Ashton’s nine years as head coach.

“I feel like it was bigger than a playoff game for us right now because Channel League has always been so competitive and like I said we’ve always been at the bottom and for us to fight our way up to the top is pretty special for these guys,” Ashton said.

Spencer Kemp, Kameron Bebb and Shane Hauschild all scored twice for San Marcos.

Santa Barbara seniors Tyler Heffernan and Skyler Matthews led the Dons with two each.

Bebb’s second goal, scored with 2:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, proved to be the game winner. The Royals were in a 6-on-5 situation and the defender backed off leaving Bebb with a clear look at the goal from the outside.

“I just saw the opportunity so I shot it well and luckily it went in,” Bebb said.

It gave the Royals a 7-5 lead, which they almost gave up. Santa Barbara’s Sawyer Rhodes cut the lead to 7-6 on a cross-cage dart from the perimeter. The Dons produced two golden opportunities in the final 90 seconds to draw even, including a penalty shot, but fell short.

Santa Barbara finishes fourth in league play but can’t receive an at-large CIF bid because the Dons’ record is under .500 at 13-15.

“I felt like we had a chance,” Walsh said. “I wish we could have made those. You know, one more 6-on-5, one more penalty and we would have won by one and we could have gone to the playoff. It would have been so great (for my players).”

The three playoff teams from the Channel League are champion Dos Pueblos, San Marcos and Ventura.

It’s the third-straight CIF appearance for the Royals, who won their wild-card game last year before falling to Murrieta Valley in the first round.

“It feels great and I credit our goalie Jack Palmer. He played a really good game,” Bebb said. “We had a rough start but I think we pulled it together in the end and started to play well.”

San Marcos trailed twice in the second quarter at 2-1 and 3-2. The Royals answered so quickly on both occasions that they trailed for less than 45 seconds of total clock time. Miles Cole’s score evened the match at 3-3 going into the halftime break.

The teams continued to exchange goals into the third period until Spencer Kemp gave San Marcos a 6-4 lead with 3:23 left in the third quarter, an advantage the Royals would not give up again. The one-goal difference was much closer than the 12-5 decision in their earlier league meeting.

“Santa Barbara brought it today,” Bebb said. “When it was our pool it was a different story and today they showed what a good team they are.”


San Marcos 1 2 3 1 – 7
Santa Barbara 1 2 1 2 – 6

SM Goals – Hauschild 2, Bebb 2, Kemp 2, Cole
SB Goals – Heffernan 2, Matthews 2, Gross, Rhodes