by Dan Albano
Servite’s grind through the challenging Trinity League water polo season helped prepare the Friars for the sizzling goalie they encountered under the lights Saturday at El Dorado in the CIF-SS Division 2 quarterfinals.
Their conditioning and defense under seventh-year coach Andy Coffman took care of the rest.
Junior attacker Steven Rubly scored the winning goal off a cross pass by Sam Diamond on a man-advantage chance with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter to lift top-seeded Servite past the Golden Hawks 7-6 in front an overflow crowd.
In advancing to Wednesday’s semifinal match against Redlands East Valley in Irvine, Servite — the fifth-place team from the Trinity League — solved goalie Joshua Dachenhausen just enough by shooting off cross passes, a common tactic against a locked-in goalie.
But the Friars (22-9) found the most consistency with their pressing defense, which shutout El Dorado (25-6) in the opening frame and then locked down for the final 2:20 of regulation after the Crestview League’s third-place team knotted the score 6-6.
Servite sophomore goalie Joey Kent recorded a steal and Andrew Cagney added a steal coming out of a timeout with about 25 seconds left as Coffman guided his third team to the semifinals and first since Servite’s Division 3 championship season of 2018.
“Our motto is that you’re going to run into goalies like that,” Coffman said, “but if you got your effort and game plan on defense, that’s the key.”
Cagney, also a junior attacker, and Diamond, a senior attacker, each record three steals while Kent made seven saves.
Servite’s defense needed to deliver after the Golden Hawks erased a 6-3 deficit early in the fourth with three consecutive goals, including an impressive redirect in front of the cage by center EJ Lynch off a pass from Brody Swarm tied the score 6-6.
Servite sophomore Lucas Rodriguez drew the exclusion at center that led to the Rubly’s winning-strike from the so-called 1/2 side or left wing.
Servite went 2 for 4 with the man-advantage while the Golden Hawks finished 2 for 5 and made both their penalty shots.
Earlier in the fourth, Rodriguez scored off a cross pass from Rubly to give Servite a 6-3 lead.
And late in first half, Ryan Gonzales scored off a cross pass from fellow junior Elias Guirado.
“We were trying to move him around a little bit,” Rubly said of 6-foot-6 Dachenhausen, who made 16 of his 17 saves in the first three periods. “For Division 2, he’s up there but the Trinity League is pretty tough. The Trinity League really does prepare us for these games.”
Said Coffman, “Our cohesion is our success. We don’t rely on any one player, offense or defense. I love the way these guys play.”
Rubly, who matched Swarm with a match-high three goals, also netted a key strike in the third period.
After El Dorado’s Evan Won fired in a backhand shot to tie the score 3-3 and the Golden Hawks had a shot for the lead bounce off the side post, Rubly scored on a counterattack from nearly 10 meters.
On the counterattack, Rubly appeared as if he might pass ahead but released his shot quickly, blasting a cross-cage toss in off the post. The play was water polo’s version of pulling up on a fast-break in basketball to take a long 3-pointer.
“While I was swimming down pool, I was watching him,” Rubly said of the Dachenhausen. “I saw him look away so I was like, ‘All right, this is an open look.’ So I ripped it, and thankfully it went in.”
El Dorado senior Clayton Templeton also played well defensively, recording three field blocks.