Days after winning Rio Hondo League (RHL) with an undefeated record of 8-0, the So Pas varsity water polo squad went down to defeat in the first round of CIF playoffs to the same school that ousted them last year in the semi-finals.
The water polo squad lost to Redondo Union Tuesday night, 9-5, in a match they never led and were seemingly over-powered at every juncture.
“It’s disappointing,” said Head Coach Michael Gonzales after the match. “But it doesn’t take away from the season these boys had and, in fact, this might be the best thing that has ever happened to them.”
The water polo squad moved up one division from four to three this year. Gonzales said they proved they could play in the division, just not Tuesday.
“We were outplayed today,” Gonzales said. “It’s been a long season. We went up a division and showed we belonged. I am proud of these boys.”
Gonzales knew that this season was going to be a challenge. He was going to build in tougher competition for his squad in the early non-league matches. Through front-loading the schedule with squads in better divisions, better players, and better teams, Gonzales hoped So Pas would, in turn, play at the competition’s level and be the better for it.
At one juncture, though, he feared his strategy may have backfired.
“We knew the schedule we put together would be a grueling one,” Gonzales said after his team was crowned league champions last week by beating Monrovia 15-11. “But I think going through it and anticipating it are obviously two different things. We are definitely proud of how the boys were able to claw back and really finish out the second half of their season.”
The Tigers won league and were the first seed in the CIF postseason.
So Pas Athletic Director Greg Luna, who had Gonzales as a student in his history class a few years back, applauded the coach and his team for being league champions.
Luna, though, was disappointed with the early loss in the postseason.
“It was a disappointing game,” Luna said after Tuesday’s match. “The boys played hard. It wasn’t enough.”
After the Monrovia match, Luna asked the crowd on hand to cheer the water polo squad and Gonzales for placing first in RHL. The crowd quickly responded with a resounding ovation and a cheer.
“So far, we are on a really good run with both boys and girls water polo,” Luna said after the Monrovia match. “Specifically with boys’ water polo to come back after loss in the CIF semi-finals last year and to win league with an undefeated mark speaks well about the kids’ preparation and spirit. I am very proud of them and Michael and very happy for the boys.”
League play pitted the water polo Tigers against five other teams. The CIF postseason has 32 teams competing.
Meanwhile, Gonzales put the season into perspective when he said this experience is going to help his team’s overall development.
“As I said, this might be the best thing for the boys,” Gonzales said before he turned to go into to talk privately with his team. He was planning on thanking them for a productive year and to tell them to get ready for next year.
“They played their hearts out this year,” he said. “It was a fantastic season.”