Pali High Boys Water Polo Defeats Birmingham 13-5 at Valley College to Capture Seventh Straight City Championship
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The Palisades High boys water polo team knew precisely what it wanted to do heading into last Thursday night’s City Section championship game versus Birmingham. Having needed a steal in the closing seconds to preserve a one-goal victory in the previous year’s final the Dolphins left nothing to chance this time, executing their gameplan to near perfection and building an insurmountable lead over the first three quarters to capture their record seventh consecutive title with a 13-5 win at Valley College.
“I knew about their big scorer No. 10 [Samuel Krboyan] because I’ve seen him in club season, but the wildcard was No. 4 [Ben Sanchez]… I was worried about him,” said junior Oliver Grant, who scored four goals with five steals and one assist. “We knew they’re mostly a two-man team. Maximo [Speiser] and I tried to drive. We were so much better prepared and it feels great to win by this many points.”
The top-seeded Dolphins (27-4) used crisp passing and smothering defense to tire out the second-seeded Patriots (23-7)on defense and frustrate them on offense. Palisades led 6-1 at halftime and 10-2 entering the fourth quarter as they beat Birmingham for the fourth time in the finals.
“Zach [Wunder] did a great job on No. 10 and Theo [Trask] is maybe the best hole guard we’ve had,” senior Luis Urias said after netting four goals. “I just try to shoot as hard as I can. This is four [City titles] for me and it feels amazing. No words can describe this.”
Speiser had two goals, three assists and two steals, Wunder, Chris Ramos and Matt Garcia each added one goal and sophomore goalie Dmitry Gorozhankin saved 12 of 17 shots.
“We knew their players and who to shut down,” said Trask, who recorded four steals to up his season total to 107—three shy of Kian Lotfi’s school record. “I got the three ejections, but fortunately my teammates covered for me. We’re better than last year. So many of us have played together our whole water polo lives.”
Palisades now has a chance to win its first Southern California Regional championship. The Dolphins are seeded No. 2 in Division III and take on Cathedral at Ocean View High on Friday afternoon.
“It ranks right up there… this is probably the best team we’ve ever had,” said Pali High Coach Adam Blakis, soaking wet from being pushed into the pool along with assistants Kirk Lazaruk and Sam Elias after the awards ceremony. “Most of these kids have been playing together for five or six years, this is a cohesive team and the players really coach themselves, which is fabulous.”