Santa Ana’s Mater Dei won its sixth CIF Southern Section boys water polo title on Saturday in a tense, tactical meeting with twice defending champs Harvard-Westlake, 9-8.
The two programs, widely acknowledged as the nation’s best, jousted for the section’s Division 1 top ranking during the season; the Wolverines entered the fall as favorites with aspirations of going undefeated toward a third consecutive championship. But after getting thumped in a 12-3 loss at the Santa Barbara Tournament in September, the Monarchs ended Harvard-Westlake’s undefeated run. Mater Dei won all three of their remaining matches – including Saturday’s section championship – each by a single goal.
At least some of that success comes from a change in one simple tactic: not allowing All-American and Stanford recruit, Ben Hallock, to score. In their September meeting the best high schooler in the US, according to many, tallied five goals and the Wolverines won by nine. In subsequent meetings Mater Dei besieged Hallock with defenders and limited him to two scores – only one in Saturday’s final – in a risky bet that paid off, but barely.
“Ben Hallock is the best player in the United States,” Harvard coach Brian Flacks said. “For him to get so few touches in a game like that, it hurts. … A lot of credit to Mater Dei.”
Harvard-Westlake led 8-7 nearly half way into the fourth period, finding success piercing the heavy zone with timely sharpshooting from the perimeter. That waned as the Monarchs defense, which was superb throughout, ramped up to keep the Wolverines off the board for the remainder. Mater Dei converted twice to earn the lead and tensely thwarted Harvard’s final two attacks.
The defensive effort also showed in extra-man situations. Mater Dei converted on six of eight opportunities while holding the defending champions to only three goals in 10 power play chances.
Mater Dei has now participated in nine consecutive section championship matches winning six.
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— Harvard-Westlake (@hwathletics) November 22, 2015