2016-11-25 / Sports

Highlanders win CIF championship

BOYS’ WATER POLO DIVISION 4 CHAMPIONSHIP /// Royal 12, Yucaipa 6 Royal boys’ water polo team secures Division 4 title in thrashing of Yucaipa
By Jonathan Andrade


PARTY LIKE IT’S 1995—The Royal High boys’ water polo team celebrates after winning the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship on Nov. 19 at Irvine. PARTY LIKE IT’S 1995—The Royal High boys’ water polo team celebrates after winning the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship on Nov. 19 at Irvine. The wait is over.

It took 21 years, but Royal High’s boys’ water polo team finally has another CIF-Southern Section title for the trophy case on campus.

Royal, which last won a section title in 1995 under legendary coach Steve Snyder, outpaced Yucaipa 12-6 in the Division 4 finals on Nov. 19 in Irvine.

Jack Richards, a 2-meter defender for the Highlanders, said the big lead made the last eight minutes of the game an enjoyable ride.

“I was feeling super relieved,” the freshman said. “I watched the other games before, and every single game was close. We pretty much buried them in the second half.”

Royal nurtured a 6-3 halftime lead, but the defense clamped down to conserve the victory.


RULE THE CAGE—Royal senior goalie Luke Dominick, practicing earlier this season, was a force in the cage for the Highlanders. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers RULE THE CAGE—Royal senior goalie Luke Dominick, practicing earlier this season, was a force in the cage for the Highlanders. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Matt Frazier, the Highlanders’ second-year head coach, enjoyed his second celebratory dip in the pool. Frazier was in his second year as an assistant under Snyder during the 1995 title run.

Snyder, who was in the stands for the title win, gave Frazier words of wisdom days before the championship match.

“He told me to just let the kids play and see what the outcome is,” Frazier said. “This year was a lot sweeter. It was very unexpected.

“It goes to prove you never know who’s going to win a championship. If you told me at the beginning of playoffs that we would win a championship I would have said, ‘I don’t think so.’”

Snyder, who attended the game with several of his former players, congratulated Frazier after the big win. Frazier played water polo for Snyder at Royal from 1982 to 1984.


UNLEASH THE BEAST—Noah Plagenza was a senior leader in the pool this season for Royal, which seized a Division 4 title last weekend. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers UNLEASH THE BEAST—Noah Plagenza was a senior leader in the pool this season for Royal, which seized a Division 4 title last weekend. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Royal finished the regular season with a 20-13 overall record, including 4-2 in the Coastal Canyon League. The Highlanders’ only league losses came against league champion Moorpark, which lost in the first round of the Division 2 playoff bracket.

Highlander seniors Luke Dominick, Johnny Lavallee, Jonah Brewer, Chris Wilmot, Noah Plagenza, Andrew Gutierrez and Parker George will happily take a section title over a league crown any day.

“It feels great,” said Dominick, a goalie. “We worked so hard. It’s so good to see the culmination of our goal of winning CIF.

“Towards the end of the season, and especially in the beginning of the playoffs, we started coming together as a team. We were confident in ourselves and in each other.”


VERSATILE STAR—Johnny Lavallee led the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 champion Highlanders in goals, assists and steals this season. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers VERSATILE STAR—Johnny Lavallee led the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 champion Highlanders in goals, assists and steals this season. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Dominick’s consistency in goal was crucial for the Highlanders.

Lavallee, the team’s top offensive threat, led Royal in goals, assists and steals this year.

Brewer, a senior who was ineligible earlier this season, provided a boost for the Royal attack toward the end of the year as a weapon off the bench. He played in one regular season game and all five playoff games.

Freshman James Brewer, Jonah’s younger brother, played an instrumental role on offense.

Richards attributed the team’s success to the seniors.

“They completely motivated the freshmen,” Richards said. “They were always helping out. They’re great people to have been able to play with. I’ll miss them next year.”

The rookie said the championship experience is invaluable.

“Being a freshman,” Richards said, “it was an honor to be able to play at that high level in my first year of high school. Everything happened right for us.

“I think players will come back more experienced, and we’ll have a pretty solid team next year.”

LIONS CAPTURE FIRST CIF TITLE

Oaks Christian High’s boys’ water polo team captured its first CIF-Southern Section title in program history last weekend.

The Lions defeated Aliso Niguel 9-7 in the finals on Nov. 19 in Irvine. Jacob Ehrhardt, a junior, scored five goals in the title game for Oaks Christian.

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