San Marcos' Will Stuart (left) looks to shoot over the Northwood defender in Thursday's win. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

San Marcos boys water polo got off to a strong start and never looked back en route to a 14-7 victory over Northwood in the second round of the CIF-SS Div. 2 playoffs on Thursday at Elings Aquatic Center.

The Royals will now play host to Riverside Poly on Saturday at 2 p.m. for a quarterfinal matchup, also at Elings Aquatic Center.

It didn’t take long for San Marcos to find the back of the cage, as Jacob Magid scored just 15 seconds into the game to take an early 1-0 lead.

The opening goal provided the rest of the Royals with some momentum, as the defense locked down and shut out the Timberwolves for the entirety of the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Nic Prentice and Hudson Macleod scored a goal apiece to take a 3-0 advantage into the second. 

“We wanted to set the tone early and I think we accomplished that, shutting them down and going up three goals,” San Marcos coach Peera Sukavivatanachai said. “They were a bit nervous in the beginning, but once we started playing our system and our game, they got more comfortable.”

San Marcos goalie Sam Rich extends to make a save in Thursday’s win. Rich ended the day with 13 saves. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

Northwood finally got on the scoreboard 44 seconds into the second quarter with a goal to cut the lead to 3-1.

After some solid defensive play from both sides, the Royals picked up two quick goals within 20 seconds as Mateo Obando converted a penalty shot and Magid scored his second of the day on a breakaway counterplay, bringing the lead to 5-1.

The Timberwolves’ Michael Abshier responded just 20 seconds later with a crafty floater shot over San Marcos goalie Sam Rich, who had a great first half.

The Royals closed out the half with three goals in the final two minutes of play thanks to AJ Scarborough, who scored off an assist by Will Stuart, Alden Klein and Obando.

Heading into halftime, San Marcos held a commanding 8-2 lead. In the strong first half, Rich collected nine saves to lead the defensive effort.

“We knew who their best shooters were so it was just about not giving them space and boxing out their center,” Sukavivatanachai said of his defense. “It was about shutting those guys down and forcing the other guys to step up.”

Despite the first-half result, Northwood came out with some fire in the third quarter, outscoring the Royals 4-2, including a run of three unanswered goals. 

However, Prentice got San Marcos back on track in the final seconds of the third quarter with a goal that followed up a ricochet off the Timberwolves’ goalie. 

Prentice’s third goal of the game and second of the quarter gave the Royals a 10-6 lead heading into the final seven minutes.  

San Marcos’ Luke Burns fires in one of his four goals in the fourth quarter on Thursday. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

“We reshifted our line a little bit, we needed a little speed because we were getting beat on a lot of counters,” Sukavivatanachai said of the adjustments made after the third quarter. “We adjusted and we adjusted well.”

The adjustments helped San Marcos close the game out, but so did Luke Burns taking over on the offensive end in the fourth quarter.

In the final quarter, Burns ripped off a team-high four goals and registered a steal, powering the Royals to a 14-7 victory to advance to the quarterfinals.

“I’m really excited about my guys, they played a fast-paced game,” Sukavivatanachai said. “It was a really great way to start the tournament and hopefully we can carry that momentum into Saturday.”

San Marcos, the No. 1 seed in Division 2, will advance to the CIF-SS semifinals with a win on Saturday.