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Water Polo

San Marcos Has Too Much Defense, Speed for Santa Barbara

Piper Smith of San Marcos defends against Santa Barbara’s Grace Raisin during the Royals’ 11-4 Channel League win on Tuesday. Click to view larger
Piper Smith of San Marcos defends against Santa Barbara’s Grace Raisin during the Royals’ 11-4 Channel League win on Tuesday. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The San Marcos girls water polo team was anxious to play again.

Because of the Thomas Fire, the Royals hadn’t seen action since the Villa Park Tournament on Dec. 6-8.

Game day finally came on the second day of the new year and the energized Royals cut loose for an 11-4 victory over crosstown rival Santa Barbara in a Channel League match-up at the San Marcos pool.

Piper Smith and Hannah Meyer each scored three goals and Sarah Owens had two as the defending league champions and CIF-SS Division 1 runners-up (5-3, 2-0) used an aggressive defense and an up-tempo attack to overpower the Dons (4-4, 0-1).

"The past week coming back and getting back in the pool we had the passion and the fire," Smith said. "We knew what we had to do in this game and what we had to do in the past practices to get ready for this game. We were fired up and ready."

Hannah Meyer scored three goals to share high-scoring honors with Piper Smith. Click to view larger
Hannah Meyer scored three goals to share high-scoring honors with Piper Smith. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Meyer said the team trained a little at the YMCA during the weeks of the fire before finally being allowed to practice at the school pool last week.

"Last week was our heavy days, like three hour practices for the week," she said. "And now we’re back."

"We were really excited to be back," coach Chuckie Roth said. "It was great to come back today and play a game on the first day back (to school)."

Santa Barbara (5-3, 0-1) hung tough early, scoring the first goal of the game and playing the Royals to a 1-1 tie in the first period.

After the Dons' Abigail Hendrix scored on a beautiful lob shot to the far post to knot the score at 2-2 early in the second period, San Marcos shook off the rust from its inactivity and started operating like a well-oiled machine.

The Royals forced a turnover and Meyer scored from about 12 meters out at the 3:17 mark to put them ahead for good. 

"We were a slow at the beginning, offensively," Roth said. "I kind of anticipated that because we’ve had four practices under our belt in the last three weeks (and) things are going to happen.  As a coach, you got to be really patient and just encourage good things … it’s a process. We were doing some good things, we just weren’t scoring. I told them after first quarter: ‘Hey guys, we’re winning the game by three right now, but the scoreboard says it’s tied.

"Eventually we started scoring, so it worked out well for us."

Meyer made a field block on a Santa Barbara power play and Smith scored her first goal of the game for a 4-2 lead at 1:32 of the period. A few seconds later,  Smith broke up a Santa Barbara pass intended for Hendrix, fed Megan Musik, who crossed to Claire Kronen for the finish.

The tough defense of Smith and Meyer on Santa Barbara's Hendrix and Cal-bound Grace Raisin was huge factor in the game.

"It was me and Piper as center defenders," said Meyer. "It’s very important that we communicate while we’re back there because both (Santa Barbara) players run a pick. If we don't communicate that, then we're going to get stuck in a hold maybe on a different side, and they can cross the ball."

The UC Irvine-bound Smith took a short pass from Meyer and buried a shot with 36 seconds to go in the half for a 6-2 San Marcos advantage.

The Royals shut out Santa Barbara 3-0 in the third period. Their defense forced a turnover on a five-on-six situation and Smith converted at the other end for a 7-2 lead. Lili Rose Akin and Owens also scored to make it 9-2 heading into the final period.

"They’re very very good, they’re probably one of the top 4-5 teams in the country," Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said of the Royals. "They’re just so much faster than us. They have five girls coming off the bench that would be our fastest girls. It’s a lot to hang with.

San Marcos defenders Hannah Meyer (6) and Piper Smith (7) made it tough for Santa Barbara to get the ball inside to Grace Raisin. Click to view larger
San Marcos defenders Hannah Meyer (6) and Piper Smith (7) made it tough for Santa Barbara to get the ball inside to Grace Raisin. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

"We were close for a quarter because we can hang for a quarter. But after that the breakaways get bigger and bigger and more and more, and it’s just really hard to cover up. They work really hard defensively to shut down everything we’re trying to do and then they had us beat coming the other way.

"It was a hard day for us to do a lot but it wasn’t for lack of effort," Walsh added. "Some of our decision making wasn’t great. It’s hard team to play against for sure."

Georgia Ransone ended Santa Barbara’s scoring drought at 5:04 of the fourth period, but San Marcos responded with a three-pass counterattack that resulted in a goal by Meyer. Owens followed with another goal.

"We were really trying to out-swim them on the counter," said Meyer.

Hendrix combined with Raisin for Santa Barbara’s final score.

Santa Barbara is back in action Thursday at Dos Pueblos. San Marcos plays Mater Dei on Friday night at Dos Pueblos.

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