by Dan Albano
ANAHEIM — Servite is still a force in North Orange County boys water polo despite its youth.
The Friars reaffirmed their status Tuesday with a strong second-half performance to shake up-and-coming Brea Olinda en route to a 14-8 victory at Servite.
The Wildcats (10-2), ranked fourth in Division 3, had long-circled the nonleague match as a chance to showcase their rise under Coach Damian Madrigal, a graduate of Servite.
And after the first half ended in a 6-6 tie, that script seemed to be mostly on track. But Servite (9-3), ranked second to San Marcos in Division 2, scored the first four goals of the third period to take control. The Friars outscored Brea Olinda 8-2 in the second half.
Steven Rubly helped spark the surge in the third by scoring twice from the perimeter and tossing a well-placed cross-pass to fellow junior Ryan Gonzales for a redirect goal at the far post.
Rubly’s sharp-shooting helped the Friars capitalize on the Wildcats’ heavy drop defense.
Servite also quickened the pace of its counterattack in the third period and received seven saves in the final two periods from sophomore goalie Joey Kent.
“We’re young,” Servite coach Andy Coffman said. “I feel like my guys are maximizing what we got.”
The Friars started only two seniors in Patrick Edwards and Sam Diamond. Edwards, a center, finished with a team-high four goals, including two on outside shots, while Diamond added three assists. .
Junior Tanner McCreary played goalie in the first half for Servite and recorded five saves. Juniors Andrew Cagney and reserve Elias Guirado each added two goals.
Brea Olinda senior Mathew Grudichak scored four goals in the first half, including power-play strike with six seconds left in the second period to the score 6-6.
Senior left-handed Lee Bullock added two goals and five field blocks.
The Wildcats won the Ayala tournament and entered Tuesday with only an 18-10 loss to Yorba Linda.
“We played actually really well,” said Madrigal, in his third season. “Servite came through and they showed us that they were a pretty strong team.”
Brea Olinda went 3 for 6 on the power-play. Servite drew few exclusions against the drop and finished 1 for 2 with the extra attacker.