May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Northwood boys water polo team reaches finals of Steve Pal Tourney and moves up to No. 2 in CIF rankings

Northwood’s Leo Giessmann attacks the goal during the tournament. (Photos courtesy Michael An).

Northwood’s boys water polo team advanced to the finals of the Steve Pal Tournament and as a result of its strong showing moved into the No. 2 spot in the CIF Division 3 rankings.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo.

The Timberwolves (20-7 overall) fell to Laguna Beach 9-4 in the championship game Saturday. Laguna Beach is ranked No. 8 in the CIF Division 1-2 poll.

“Because no one expected for us to make it to the championship game against Laguna Beach, a lot of people: parents, coaches and players all gave us motivation to play the best game we could,” said Northwood Coach Kyle Kim-E. “We were happy and proud to make the finals and wanted to prove to all of the doubters that we deserved to be in there.

“We ultimately ended up not playing one of our better games offensively, but still gave Laguna Beach a respectable game overall. It was 6-4 at one point and I don’t think anyone predicted it would ever be that close.

“I’m very proud of these guys for what they accomplished and overcame during the tournament. They were the underdogs for the majority of these games and they came out focused on executing our system both offensively and defensively. This tournament gave our team a lot of confidence in what we can accomplish as a team with CIF (playoffs) coming up.”

Northwood is in second place in the Pacific Coast League with a 7-2 record entering its final league game Tuesday vs. Irvine at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

Northwood defeated Sage Hill 14-5 in the first game and then defeated Santa Barbara, ranked No. 5 in Division 3, 13-3.

“We knew that this would be a game that a lot of Division 3 contenders were going to pay close attention to since it was a match up between us (No. 3 at the time) and the No. 5  team in Santa Barbara,” Kim-E said. “Our guys knew what was at stake and came out focused and motivated. It was 5-0 after the first quarter and the boys maintained disciplined, tough defense to shut down Santa Barbara. It was a good game for us and gave us confidence in where we stand in CIFs as well as how our team is coming together.”

In the quarterfinals, Northwood posted a 9-3 victory Greenwich, CT

“Ironically, I’m originally from Connecticut and used to play with Greenwich Youth Water Polo,” Kim-E said.  “Greenwich’s head coach, Jimmy Ramaley, was my teammate for a number of years. Even though it had been many years since being in Connecticut, I was familiar with their play styles and I think that gave us a good advantage.

“The boys, again, played tough and disciplined defense to shut down Eastern Powerhouse Greenwich. Offense took a little longer to establish but we started to hit the net in the second half.”

Northwood defeated PCL rival Woodbridge 7-6 in the semifinals.

“Truthfully, I don’t think many teams expected us to make it to the semi-finals of this tournament, so that gave us a lot of motivation,” Kim-E said. “It was also nice that it was against a familiar league rival in Woodbridge. The last time we played Woodbridge, we lost by two in a close and tough game. We wanted to get some redemption from league, but also make the finals of the Steve Pal Tournament – a task that no one expected Northwood to do.”