Boys Water Polo:Hillsdale in playoff mix

 

By Nathan Mollat Daily Journal Staff 

 

The Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division boys’ water polo standings are rounding into shape and three of the four automatic Central Coast Section berths are all but locked up.

Menlo School, Menlo-Atherton and Burlingame already have proven to be the cream of the Bay Division crop and appear to be in line for the top three spots, leaving three other teams to battle it out for that fourth spot. The fourth-place finisher in the Bay will play the Ocean Division champ, with an automatic CCS bid going to the winner.

Hillsdale is hoping to be that fourth team and Wednesday the Knights hosted a Half Moon Bay squad that was in the exact position a year ago that Hillsdale is in now.

The Cougars went on to nab that fourth-place spot in 2016 and it appears Hillsdale is headed that way as well after scoring an emphatic 19-7 win over HMB.

“One thing we knew is every game (in Bay Division play) is extremely important. You only play each other once,” said Hillsdale coach Ren Hodzic. “We dropped a tough one to Burlingame (last week). … [My] guys were just eager to play another game.”

The game started out even enough. Half Moon Bay got on the scoreboard first, but by the end of the opening period, Hillsdale held a 3-2 lead.

In the second period, the Knights put the game away. Not only did they score 10 times in the quarter, they scored on all 10 of the shots they took.

“I told them, ‘Make the goalie block you 10 times,’” Hodzic said. “In the first quarter, we didn’t shoot the ball enough.”

It was the play of Brody Eveslage that catapulted Hillsdale (2-2 PAL Bay, 8-3 overall) to a commanding 13-3 lead at halftime. Eveslage scored five of his game-high six goals in the second period and he assisted on two others. Eveslage got the second-quarter scoring barrage going 20 seconds into the quarter when he slammed home a backhand shot from the set off an assist from Grant Averill. Thirty-five seconds later, Eveslage was at it again, off a pass from goalkeeper Julian Baer, who finished with four assists. Eveslage took the pass deep in HMB territory, posted up a defender before going around him and floating home his shot for a 5-2 Hillsdale lead.

“Brody just took over in the second quarter,” Hodzic said. “The team kind of fed off him and carried it to the end.”

Nathan Clark, a freshman, managed to break up Eveslage’s run with a goal for a 6-2 lead, but Eveslage was right back at it next time down the pool, scoring with another backhander from set off an assist from Grant Ronberg for an 7-2 advantage with still over half the quarter to play.

Eveslage’s defense led to the Knights’ next goal as he stripped a Cougars player from behind and started the other way on a fast break. With only the goalie to beat, Eveslage instead lofted a pass to the right wing and Noah Christner, who was crashing the goal from the right flank and easily made it 8-2 Knights.

Goals from Eveslage and Thomas Emanuel made it seven goals on seven shots for the Knights, who led 10-2 with still over two minutes to play.

Turns out that was enough time to score three more times, with Averill scoring two more goals and Thomas Dachauer adding the 10th goal of the period for a 13-3 lead at the break.

“The second quarter killed us. What do you want me to say?” said HMB coach Justin Ferdinand. “Eight of their 10 goals came off counters because of their defense. They ran certain defense to feed their offense and it worked to perfection.”

The Cougars, on the other hand, managed only six shots in that fateful second period, but a goal from Sam Hughes prevented them from being shut out in the quarter.

HMB played much better defensively in the third quarter, holding the Knights to three goals. But the Cougars offense continued to struggle. While they managed to get off seven shots, only three of them were on frame and none of them got past Hillsdale’s Baer, who finished with 15 saves — including a block out of bounds on a HMB penalty shot.

“[Baer has] had a good season. That loss to Burlingame, he was pretty hard on himself. He came in focused all week,” Hodzic said. “He did a fantastic job of blocking everything he should have blocked — and even some he shouldn’t have blocked.”

HMB finally got its offense going in the fourth period, mainly against the Hillsdale second-string, outscoring the Knights 4-3. Liam Dempsey-Frank scored both his goals over the final seven minutes. Matthew Orr and Andre Castro Santos’ two goals rounded out the scoring for the Cougars.

In addition to Eveslage’s offensive onslaught, Averill added four goals and three assists, Ronberg added a hat trick and four assists, Christner and Dachauer each scored twice, while Clark and Eli Spivak had a goal apiece.

“Defense and offense, put together? Yeah (this was the best performance of the season),” Hodzic said. “This was (the best we’ve done), from start to finish. We did what we needed to do.”

 

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