Sammy Arshadi rose out of the water and twisted his torso like a corkscrew as he unleashed a vicious backhanded shot for his second goal of the game and the fifth for Dos Pueblos in its 12-4 win over visiting Cabrillo in the Channel League water polo opener for both schools on Thursday.
The skill level of the Chargers was higher than what the Conquistadores were used to seeing, but the visitors weren’t intimidated and didn’t back down. Josh Rowe proved to be a handful for the DP defense and goalie Chase Fightner played aggressively in front of the cage.
“We knew what we were running into,” Cabrillo coach Jeff Dacus said of Dos Pueblos. “They’re a premiere school — this is a great water polo school, they’ve always been good. We’re not really used to playing teams of this caliber up where we are, so it is what it is.
“The guys played hard,” he continued. “They didn’t show any quit in them, so I was happy with the way they played.”
Down 6-0, Rowe scored Cabrillo’s first two goals, including a sweet tip-in off an entry pass from Brady Sage.
“He plays his tail off, that’s for sure. He’s one of our hardest workers,” said Dacus of Rowe.
Fightner played fittingly like this last name. He wasn’t afraid to come out of the cage and defuse DP attacks.
“He goes for steals and goes for things,” Dacus said “We have a dedicated goalie coach on our staff which is great. (Fightner) gets a lot of help from the goalie coach.”
Even with the agressive play of Fightner, Dos Pueblos was effective exploiting the Conqs in the 2-meter area. Wyatt Meckelborg was a force inside, scoring four goals.
“Wyatt did a good job,” DP coach Connor Levoff said “He did some good work in the middle for us.
“Good, quick entry passing, good spacing, all of those things lead to goals coming from center.”
Dacus said it came down to a matter of size in the middle.
“We pretty much knew we were outsized in there, so when one of those big guys get the ball he’s going to be able two put it away,” he said. “They know what they’re doing.
“We were trying to figure out a defense where guys can run some drops and things like that. It’s game slippage. Guys can practice it day in and day out and they get to the game and forget at that one moment.”
Arshadi scored three goals and Kyle Faison and Rex Goodner scored two each for the Chargers (5-4). Freshman Kai Edick scored his first varsity goal and freshman. Aiden Trager recorded the first two steals of his varsity career.
Luke Benchek and Joseph Min also scored for Cabrillo (11-3, 0-1).
Levoff was impressed with Cabrillo’s game plan. The Conqs kept a couple of players back to prevent being burned on the counterattack.
“It’s a little harder to generate offense coming out of that but it’s smart,” Levoff said “The guys looked disciplined, they looked into it and the effort level was good. I’m impressed. I think they’re a welcomed addition to the Channel League.”