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Water Polo

Dos Pueblos Turns Back San Marcos With Strong Second Half

Chargers hold Royals to one goal in 4th quarter in 7-4 victory to close in on Channel League title

An upset was brewing at the Elings Aquatic Center on Tuesday afternoon, as the San Marcos girls water polo team came out with great energy and had top-ranked Dos Pueblos down 3-1 at halftime in their Channel League showdown.

The visiting Royals, however, didn’t score again until there was 1:51 left in the fourth period.

Dos Pueblos turned up the intensity in the second half and scored five unanswered goals en route to a 7-4 victory that puts it on the verge of winning the league championship.

The Chargers (25-1 and No. 1 in Division 1 of the CIF-Southern Section) are 6-0 with remaining games at Ventura and Buena both on Thursday. San Marcos, which needed a win Tuesday to create a co-championship, finishes league at 6-2. The Royals, who are four-time league champions, are ranked No. 7 in Division 1.

"We had the conversation that the score would not be 10-2 and it very much was not," said DP coach Connor Levoff, referring to the score of his team's win at San Marcos a couple of weeks ago. "They came in with a real unique plan and it took us awhile  to adjust to that, and once we did we got a quick run and settled in. It was a good reflection of the poise and maturity of our group that sitting at half down 3-1, we did our thing when the second half started and played really well."

Ryann Neushul got the rally going for the Chargers early in the third period, scoring inside off a Chloe Pena pass to make a 3-2 game at the 5:45 mark. 

Thirty-eight seconds later Olivia Kistler, Ryann Neushul and Thea Neushul combined on a passing sequence and Abbi Hill finished the play for the tying goal.

Ryann Neushul stole the ball, broke into the clear and beat San Marcos goalie Sophie Trumbull one on one with a lob shot for a 4-3 DP lead at 4:42 of the period.

The DP defense forced another San Marcos turnover, which it converted into the fifth goal: Kistler feeding Ryan Neushul for the score at 4:12.

The Chargers forced the Royals into two shot-clock violations, but Trumbull kept San Marcos in the game with a pair of big saves.

But Trumbull couldn’t stop Hill, who broke away from her defender, took a feed from Kistler and fired a blistering shot for her fourth goal of the game to give DP a 6-3 lead.

"They were defending her in an odd way and we found that little seam for those dry dunks and it worked quite effectively," Levoff said of the plays to Hill.

"Unfortunately, we had a few lack-of-awareness situations and they resulted in a couple of (scoring) opportunities, San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth said. "I thought with a couple of their players we were in pretty good position. They’re pretty darn talented and they were able to get the ball to a couple of girls — key players — and that’s not going to work well for us." 

DP’s Sabina Shackelford almost scored at the end of the period, but Trumbull stood her ground and blocked a shot from point-blank range.

The Charger defense was stellar in the quarter, forcing turnovers and making field blocks.

"That third quarter was one of our better quarters of the year and it starts with not giving up goals and being able to counter into space and play where we want to play," said Levoff.

The solid defensive work carried over into the fourth period as Kistler stuffed an attempted shot by Piper Smith. Smith later drew a major foul for a penalty shot, but DP goalie Anna Cable blocked Cassidy Miller’s attempt at the 3:24 mark of the period. Cable made seven saves and had two steals.

"That was a big momentum turner for us," said Levoff.

Sabina Shackelford recorded a field block before Lili Aikin ended the San Marcos scoring drought on a deep lob to make it a 6-4 game with 1:51 left.

DP answered with Ryann Neushul throwing a long pass to her cousin, Thea Neushul, for the final goal. Ryann Neushul had two assists three steals, two blocks and earned two exclusions. Thea Neushul added an assist and a steal.

Hill gave the Chargers a 1-0 lead off a Shackelford assist, and they almost scored again after a Ryann Neushul steal. But Trumbull made the save on Neushul.

The Royals tied the score on a penalty shot by Smith after Fiona Kuesis was fouled on a breakaway. 

Trumbull twice came up big on Ryann Neushul to keep the score at 1-1.

Sarah Owens scored from distance and assisted on Smith’s second goal for a 3-1 San Marcos advantage with 54 seconds left in the second period.

"We were winning, which was to my surprise in some ways, so it was good," said Roth, who added that playing in DP's bigger pool was a beneift.

"We have a little more water to work with here; it’s a bigger pool and that helps us. It’s helped us in year’s past and we’ve improved. We’re a better team than we were how long ago that (10-2 loss) was and I know they’ve improved as well. They’re having a great season, they’re doing a really good job. We’ve improved and played well today."

Kuesis stepped up on defense for the Royals to deny DP on a power play at the end of the period.

"We squandered a lot of opportunities in the first half and I think we probably let their energy effect us a little bit in the first half," Levoff said. "But we knew this was going to be a 28-minute game. Our athletes did a good job riding out all 28 minutes in a really poised way."

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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