San Marcos goalie Sam Rich prepares to block Dos Pueblos' Liam Sommer's shot. Rich ended with 15 blocks. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

Strong play in the cage by Sam Rich and dominant second-half defense led San Marcos boys water polo to a 10-6 win over Dos Pueblos on Tuesday.

William Stuart loads up to shoot in Tuesday’s win. Stuart shared the team lead with three goals in the matchup. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

The Royals also got a trio of goals from both Luke Burns and William Stuart to bring their Channel League record to 4-0. The Chargers, meanwhile, fell to 3-1 with the loss.

The San Marcos defense got it started early, as a steal by Nic Prentice set up Stuart for his first goal of the day with just over a minute off the scoreboard.

The early defense-to-offense trend continued, as Alden Klein came up with a steal and passed it ahead for Burns, who found the back of the cage to give the Royals a 2-0 lead with 5:17 left in the first quarter.

“It was our defensive play that really helped us win that game,” San Marcos coach Peera Sukavivatanachai said. “We pretty much focus 70% of our time (in practice) on getting good defensive stops.”

However, Dos Pueblos came roaring back with back-to-back goals by Liam Sommer and Aiden Bishop in the span of a minute to tie the game up at 2-2.

Both teams then went on the attack in the final two minutes of the quarter, beginning with Sommer giving the Chargers their first lead at 3-2 with 1:40 left. 

That lead was short-lived, as Mateo Obando and Hudson Macleod scored goals to round out the quarter with the Royals up 4-3.

The second quarter was less active as the first, but San Marcos still found a way to strike early to extend the lead when Jacob Magid found Klein for a successful outside shot, bringing the game to 5-3 less than a minute into the quarter.

Following some solid defensive play, Jaden Moore got on the board midway through the quarter with the first of his three goals on the day, cutting the San Marcos lead to 5-4.

Jaden Moore scored a team-high three goals for the Chargers on Tuesday. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

Both goalies then flexed their muscles on back-to-back possessions as Rich and Dos Pueblos goalie Reggie Robles registered critical point-blank saves to keep the score at 5-4 with under two minutes left in the half, electrifying the crowd.

“These crosstown rivalries are always supercharged and the energy is high,” Sukavivatanachai said.

With 1:11 remaining, Moore drew a penalty and converted the free shot, sending the game to halftime all tied up at 5-5.

The third quarter was another defensive battle, but this one was won by the Royals after a pair of goals by Burns outscored the Chargers 2-1. Moore netted the lone Dos Pueblos goal of the quarter.

San Marcos’ defense then buckled down and dominated for the entirety of the fourth quarter, shutting out the Chargers while Rich picked up five blocks along the way to bring his game total to 15.

“I’m really proud of our guys on defense,” Sukavivatanachai said. “Sam is a big part of our defense for sure.”

The offense followed suit for the Royals, as Stuart scored twice in the quarter and Prentice added on his lone goal of the day to secure the 10-6 victory.

“I kept telling my guys to be patient and that the offensive end would come,” Sukavivatanachai said. “Patience prevailed and we pulled ahead in the fourth quarter.”

Dos Pueblos was without one of their impact players on Tuesday, Cole Racich, who was not with the team due to a medical situation.

Both teams shared a moment before the game for Racich, and every San Marcos player had the #5, Racich’s jersey number, written on themselves for the entirety of the game.

“Things have been put in perspective pretty clearly for myself, the team and even San Marcos,” Dos Pueblos coach Chris Parrish said. “Water polo is in the back of the mind.

“The whole community has come together and is taking care of him from afar… Everyone has come together to support the family.”

The Royals and Chargers came together for a photo before the game to show support for Cole Racich. (San Marcos Water Polo / Courtesy Photo)

Racich, a freshman, has been a consistent player for the Chargers all season long.

“He is one of the finest kids I have ever had the chance to coach,” Parrish said. “Even as a freshman, in the short time I have spent with him, he has been fantastic.”