Asher Smith
Asher Smith of Carpinteria gets off a shot while being double-teamed by Palisades defenders. Smith scored two goals for the Warriors. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The Carpinteria boys water polo team got off to a slow start against Palisades and were never able to capture any momentum, falling to the L.A. City Section champions, 9-5, in the CIF-State SoCal Regional Division 3 Championship game at Carpinteria Community Pool on Saturday.

The Warriors, the CIF-SS Division 5 champions, finish their history-making season with an overall record of 26-5.

“This is an incredible group of boys,” tactical coach Stephen Kim said. “They are amazing and I think the best group of boys I have ever coached.”

Sophomore Asher Smith was the leading scorer for the Warriors, tallying two goals on the day, with both coming in the second half.

“We’re all just really happy we made it this far,” Smith said. “This is the best our team’s ever done. We put it into the books as soon as we made it past the first or second round, so we’re all really stoked to make it this far. The people that are staying and playing next year, we are excited to get back at it.”

Justin Main, Ian Thomas and Gavin Lohuls each had a goal to round out the scoring for Carpinteria.

It was a packed house for Carptineria at the pool on Saturday, as hundreds of spectators cheered on the team throughout.

“It’s just amazing,” Smith said. “We say, ‘Warriors on three,’ and then we just hear the crowd go wild, no matter where we are, even if we’re not playing at home. People just follow, and the support here was amazing throughout this run.”

Carpinteria had defeated Palisades, 13-12, on Sept. 9 during a tournament, but the Dolphins were more prepared this time around.

“They were missing a bunch of players when we played them the first time and I think we were a little underprepared for this, but they had a great season and we had a great season,” Smith said.

Palisades was led in scoring by Connor Guy who netted four goals, followed by Eion Fox with three. Gavin Levy and Sami Raskin rounded out the scoring for Palisades with one goal apiece. 

Reyn Clayton

Reyn Clayton of Carpinteria is tightly guarded by a Palisades player during the CIF SoCal Regional Division 3 title game. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

A lot of the Dolphins’ scoring came inside, getting some good looks that allowed them to go up early.

Carpinteria goalkeeper Jacob Taff did his very best to keep the Warriors in the contest, accounting for 12 saves on the day.

“They did a great job of getting their men open and we had trouble guarding it,” Kim said. “They had these great passes that worked well for them and we just could not find the answer for it.

“Our defense was on and our goalie Jacob was doing an amazing job. He made a few saves from 2- to 5-meter range that were huge. So, our defense was there, but we just couldn’t produce a goal.”

It also helped Palisades that goalkeeper John Possman was a force in net. He tallied 13 saves, including one penalty shot. 

“They actually had some pretty big players, so we actually had trouble just matching up with them and it seems like the biggest problem was that our matchup just was not there,” Kim said.

The scoring started early from Palisades as Guy found the back of the net at the 6:01 mark. 

The Dolphins then rallied off another three goals, capped off by a Fox penalty shot that put the road team on top 4-0. 

Carpinteria responded with its first goal of the contest at the 1:20 mark to trail 4-1 at the end of the first frame. Palisades then outscored the opponents 2-0 in the second quarter to take a 6-1 halftime lead.

The Warriors best show at mounting a comeback came at around the 2:40 mark of the third period, as Main scored a goal from in close to cut the deficit to five.

On Carpinteria’s next possession, Smith beat his defender one on one but his lob shot just missed. Palisades then scored on the following possession to take an 8-2 lead.

Smith was able to net his first goal of the contest with one second remaining in the third quarter, beating his defender and the goalie to cut the lead back to five again.

Carpinteria then netted two goals in the fourth quarter, with Smith’s second coming with 1:03 left, cutting the lead to 8-5.

But Palisades’ Guy knocked in one more with 32 seconds left to secure the win and the regional title for the Dolphins.