GWP: Royals get tough down stretch, beat Dons, 13-7


San Marcos was making it look too easy at the start of its Channel League girls water polo opener against Santa Barbara High on Thursday, rolling out to a 4-1 lead.

But if the Royals thought this was going to be a cakewalk in their home pool, they had another thing coming. Santa Barbara fought its way back into the game and trailed just 8-6 late in the third period. That’s when San Marcos’ defense took over. The Royals capitalized on a pair of steals to spark a 5-0 run and pulled away to a 13-7 victory.

“I think some times we need a fire,” San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth said. “If the fire is lit underneath us, we play better.”

After Brittany Prentice scored on a tough shot to make it 9-6, Paige Hauschild ignited a second-half surge with a breathtaking steal, soaring high out of the water to intercept a Santa Barbara cross-pool pass. The Royals converted the steal into a goal, with Lili Rose Akin crossing the ball to Riley Heiduk who tapped it in.

Katie Coski stole the ball on Santa Barbara’s next possession and was fouled as she drove toward the goal. The referee called a penalty shot and Hauschild scored it, putting the Royals up 11-6 at the end of the third period.

“It was 8-6 at one point and then we had a couple of breakdowns,” said Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh. “They’re so relentless in their counterattack, getting the ball into 2 meters and they have good outside shooting. They beat us on the outside, they beat us on the counter. They’re really, really versatile. They can score in a variety of ways and that makes it tough to stop.”

The Royals (7-1, 1-0) denied Santa Barbara early in the fourth period on blocks by Megan Bergthold and Hauschild. Hauschild’s block was on a Dons’ power play.

“You go through some sequences,” Roth said. “Our defense was money in the last five minutes of the game; we were really good. Ten minutes before that we weren’t very good.”

Paige Hauschild defends Santa Barbara's Kristina Garcia

Paige Hauschild of San Marocs pressures Santa Barbara’s Kristina Garcia. (PresidIo Sports photo0

A lot of that had to do with the improved play of Santa Barbara (3-3, 1-1). Freshman Grace Raisin sparked a comeback in the second period with three straight goals. Her second goal was impressive. She took a pass inside, used her body to ward off a defender and scored on a backhanded shot.

“I thought Grace Raisin played really well for us,” Walsh said. “She’s a freshman who hasn’t been playing water polo that long, so she was a real pleasant surprise for us.”

Raisin and Kristina Garcia each scored three goals for the Dons.

“I was really proud of the way we played,” said Walsh. “Obviously being down 4-1 in the first quarter wasn’t that exciting. But I thought we did some OK things. I didn’t think it was that bad. I felt they were maybe two goals better than us.”

Roth agreed that the game was closer than the final score.

“Santa Barbara was playing great,” he said. “I thought they did a great job today. We’re trying to work on some communication issues and we made some mistakes defensively and they scored some goals. We’re still trying to figure some things out.”

The Royals were balanced in their scoring with Bergthold, Coski and Hauschild each scoring three goals. Prentice and Heiduk both scored two.