By Barry Punzal
The San Marcos scouting report on Servite's water polo team was pretty straight forward: contain No. 4 Guillermo Ocasio.
It was easier said than done.
Servite's junior center made his presence felt right from the start in Saturday's CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinal game at the San Marcos pool. He fired three straight goals en route to game-high eight, powering the Friars to a 16-7 victory over the Royals.
Ocasio muscled for position at 2 meters and poured in four goals during the first period. His fourth was a beauty — a blistering backhander past freshman goalie Ben Webber.
"He's one of the best centers in Orange County," said Servite coach Andy Coffman. "People are very aware of who he is."
Said San Marco coach Peera Sukavivatanachai: "Guillermo is a lot to deal with. We had a lot of intel on them. They had a lot of pieces to cover, it wasn't just No. 4 we had to worry about. They had a lot of outside presence, too.
"They definitely have the depth and we don't have that yet. It's definitely difficult to deal with."
Even with Ocasio's dominance at the offensive end, San Marcos stayed close to Servite. Trevor Ricci scored from way outside and fed center center James Oriskovich for a couple of goals to make it a 5-4 game with 21 seconds left in the period.
With the Royals collapsing on Ocasio, Christian Martinez stepped up for the Friars and scored from the perimeter for a 6-4 lead.
Coffman noted that Ocasio's powerful presence at the 2-meter spot, creates opportunities for his teammates.
"He does a lot of that beating-up work and all that stuff," the coach pointed out. "When (the opponents are) going to drop on him and leave other people open, whether he's getting the ball or getting other people open, he's happy to work for it like that."
Ricci made it a 6-5 game, beating Servite goalie Matt Kuehl from an extreme angle early in the second period.
Servite's defense then took charge, holding San Marcos scoreless for the rest of the second period.
Meanwhile, the Friars scored four unanswered goals — three in the second period and one in the third — to take a commanding 10-5 lead.
Oriskovich broke the San Marcos drought, beating his defender inside and shooting past Kuehl.
But Servite responded with Ocasio's sixth goal. The score came after the Friars rebounded two missed attempts on a power play.
Servite lost to Dos Pueblos in last year's Division 3 semifinals, and Coffman said this year's team has used that defeat to motivate them during their playoff run.
"That loss to Dos Pueblos was a lot of our motivation for this year," he said. "We were fortunate to return the core of our team. We only had to replace two starters, so the experience we got last year has really paid off."
After finishing fourth in the tough Trinity League, Coffman noted that the team flipped a switch once the playoffs started.
"It's like we've been waiting for this all year," he said.
Ocasio would score again during a 5-0 run to build Servite's lead to 15-6. For good measure, he fired his last goal from the perimeter to start the fourth quarter.
Oriskovich added his team-best third goal of the game for the Royals, who won two straight playoff games on the road after losing its last two games in the Channel League tournament.
"We've had to deal with a lot," Sukavivatanachai said. "One of our seniors had a broken nose and another one of our starters had a concussion and missed the tournament.
"I'm super proud of how resilient we've been and how competitive were able to be with a lot going against us."
With their quarterfinal victory, the Friars advance to Wednesday's CIF Semifinals against Segerstrom. Both the semifinals and finals will be played at the William Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine. Game time for Wednesday's semifinal is 3:30pm. Tickets- adults ($10), students with ID ($5), children 13 and under ($5).