Boys’ water polo loses CCS qualification in last few seconds despite successful season.

November 21, 2008 — by Kevin Mu and Guy Quanrud

The Falcons headed into the final league playoffs confidently and in first place. But nothing, not even a 11-1 season and comfortable first-round bye could prepare the boys’ water polo team for the biggest shock of the season.

After scoring a total of 18 goals to Fremont’s 12 in two season victories against the fourth-seeded Firebirds, the Falcons were positive they could pull out a victory. They even took a comfortable 6-3 lead into the 4th quarter.

With 35 left seconds and the Falcons down 7-6, junior John Chen scored the tying goal that seemed like it would push the game into overtime. But with just three seconds to go, Fremont’s set man scored on a close shot that passed the outstretched arm of senior goalie Justin Winningham and gave the Firebirds a stunning victory. The Falcons’ hopes of advancing to CCS fell apart.

A key factor in the loss was that many of Saratoga’s starters were sick. Though they all played, their performance was clearly affected, said senior Nick Mortazavi, who scored four goals during the match.

“A lot of us were sick so we hadn’t practiced together for a couple of days and that hurt us,” said Mortazavi. “We kind of underestimated them too. We came in as the first seed as thought that we could beat the Firebirds.”

Fremont went on to win the playoffs and headed to CCS while Saratoga headed off to a sluggish game against Wilcox. Sick and stunned from their earlier loss, the Falcons fell behind and couldn’t catch up. They finished third in the playoffs after losing their final game against the Chargers.

Despite their disappointing finish in the league playoffs, it was still a successful season overall for the Falcons. After going winless in league play last season, the boys turned it around and won the most games in the El Camino Division.

“We had a great season,” said Mortazavi. “It’s just one game. We won 11 and we lost one in leagues and we’re still winners. I felt proud of the way the team played.”

First-year coach Christian Bonner was also satisfied with the team’s performance this season.

“Overall it was a good experience for myself and the team,” said Bonner. “It was a shame that after we had the second-best league record after tournament play that we couldn’t go farther.”

First team All-league awards, honoring the best players in the El Camino Division, were awarded to Chen, Mortazavi and Winningham. Senior captain Arian Mahini received second team All-league.

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