GWP: Dons, Royals decide league title in overtime thriller

San Marcos vs Santa Barbara Girls Water Polo

San Marcos’ Riley Heiduk gets her jersey pulled and an arm to the face in Thursday’s hard-fought Channel League game. (Presidio Sports Photos)

Thursday’s Channel League water polo match at San Marcos had all the ingredients of an instant classic.

Rivals. Buzzer-beating shots. League championship on the line. Overtime. School history. Biggest crowd of the season. It had it all.

In the end, San Marcos’ girls team edged Santa Barbara High 13-12 to win a share of the school’s first-ever league championship.

The game featured several momentum swings and a buzzer-beating goal by Betsy Hendrix that sent the game to overtime. Santa Barbara took a 12-11 lead in the first overtime but Riley Heiduk and Megan Bergthold scored in the second overtime to lift the Royals.

“I never doubted it. I was definitely a little anxious in the first overtime period when they scored first, but I always felt that we could pull it off in the end,” Heiduk said.

Santa barbara High vs San Marcos water polo

Santa Barbara defenders Anna Brummett and Jessie Brummett make life difficult for San Marcos’ Brittany Prentice.

Bergthold’s game-winning goal came with 56 seconds remaining in the second 3-minute overtime period. Jenna Phreaner blocked a Santa Barbara shot and started the counter attack that Bergthold finished on the other end.

Santa Barbara’s opportunity to draw even was taken away by Hailie Johnson’s steal, which put San Marcos in clock-killing mode. The Dons got possession back with nine seconds to go but couldn’t summon the magic like at the end of regulation.

“We just couldn’t create enough opportunitites in that second overtime to get the win,” said Dons head coach Mark Walsh.

The Santa Barbara High bench reacts to Betsy Hendrix's buzzer-beater.

The Santa Barbara High bench reacts to Betsy Hendrix’s buzzer-beater.

Santa Barbara, which had already clinched its share of the league title, had to rally twice just to get to overtime. The Dons fell behind 4-1 in the first quarter and trailed 10-6 at the end of the third period after San Marcos dominated the quarter 6-0.

“I’m proud of the girls for how they responded,” Walsh said.

While the two teams will share the league title with identical 7-1 records, after the game, the Royals won a coin flip and will be the Channel League’s No. 1 seed when CIF playoff pairings are released on Sunday.

Royals head coach Chuckie Roth has spent 10 years building a program at San Marcos and said Thursday’s win reflected on his past players.

“The one thing I’ll say about this, everyone of the alumni, they’ve played into this win,” Roth said. “Everyone who’s handed something down to the next generation. If you hear the talks these girls give each other, it’s all about leaving a legacy.”

That family-like attitude helped the Royals come back after falling behind twice, including once in overtime.

“It’s hard (to come back), but with a team like ours, we’re all really good friends outside the pool so we know that we got each other’s back in the pool,” Heiduk said.

Heiduk scored a team-high five goals for San Marcos and Phreaner blocked 13 shots in the cage.

It was a hard-fought battle that intensified as the game progressed with neither team wanting to give an inch.

“We always have the physical ability and drive to play all the way through the game and I think it showed today,” Phreaner said.

Hendrix led the Dons on offense with five goals and extended the game with her clutch goal at the end of regulation. Down 11-10 with five seconds on the clock, Santa Barbara went to Hendrix.

“She’s taken that shot a lot – maybe not in that situation necessarily – but she’s got very good touch,” Walsh explained. “She knows when to shoot hard and when to lob. She read the goalie really well and felt like a lob shot would be best there – there’s a lot of girls in there so she probably couldn’t of shot it hard through there – so she made a great decision.”


Santa Barbara 1 5 0 5  (1) (0) – 12
San Marcos      4 0 6 1 (0) (2) – 13

SB Scorers – Hendrix 5, A. Brummett 2, J. Brummett 2, McGeoy 2, Garcia 1
SB Saves – Goggia

SM Scorers – Heiduk 5, Hauschild 1, Prentice 1, Johnson 1, Coski 3, Bergthold 2.
SM Saves – Phreaner 13