June 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Top-seeded Bonita denies Woodbridge’s bid for first CIF championship

Woodbridge High School’s players and coaches show the CIF runner-up trophy Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College. (Photos John Luciano, For OC Sports Zone).

The second-seeded Woodbridge High boys’ water polo team’s bid for the program’s first CIF title fell short as the Warriors lost to top-seeded Bonita 16-5 Saturday afternoon in the CIF Division 4 championship match at Mt. San Antonio College.

Bonita (21-12) earned its seventh CIF title. Woodbridge finishes the season 26-11. It was Woodbridge’s first trip to the CIF finals in boys water polo.

Despite the setback, Warriors Coach Alex Farraro remained upbeat about the future of the program.

“We’re a very young team with only three seniors and we start two freshman,” said Farraro. “The difference in this game was experience. Our players weren’t used to the big venue and the big crowd. We’ll used this as motivation and we’ll build on it. We didn’t play our best game, but we gave a great effort. There is no shame in defeat. We advanced to the CIF finals. It’s been an awesome season.”

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Woodbridge started out on the right foot as junior Robin Koehler scored to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead after a minute of play.

However, it would be Woodbridge’s last lead of the game. Moments later, Jacob Carlson scored to tie the game at 1-1. The Bearcats added three more goals in the opening quarter and led 4-1 after seven minutes. The Warriors had excellent opportunities to keep pace with Bonita but Yuval Fang, Caden Bolton and Koehler had shots bang off the post.

Freshman Tim Wang scored in the opening minute of the second quarter to cut the lead to 4-2, but the Bearcats countered with a pair of goals in 32 seconds by Max Distaso and Carlson as Bonita upped its lead to 6-2 at the 5:25 mark of the quarter. The Bearcats added three more goals in the period, two by Carlson, and led 9-2 at halftime.

Once again, the Warriors had several shots that hit off the post, but the Bearcats applied intense pressure and forced several turnovers while limiting Woodbridge to one goal in the second quarter. Bonita also got outstanding goalie play from Braydon Jimenez.  

“It was definitely a crazy game; it was nerve racking and I think nerves got into our head and we didn’t play well,” said Fang. “But throughout our season we continued to get better each game and we’re proud that we made it to the CIF finals. This has been a great experience.”

Woodbridge was outscored 5-1 in the third quarter and trailed 14-3 after three periods. Freshman Elijah Bolton scored the lone Warriors goal in the third quarter. Daniel Lavi and Bolton closed out the scoring for the Warriors in the fourth quarter.

“This is the first time we played at such a high level and I think the pressure got to us a little and I think they got into our heads a bit,” said Gal Cohen, a senior.

Goalie Ben Chan said the team will learn from this experience. The Warriors earned a trip to the finals defeating San Dimas in the semifinals Wednesday.

“We’ll use this as motivation over the summer to work harder and come back stronger,” said Chan, a junior. “We’ll build from this experience, but after they got up by three or four goals it seemed like it was going to be tough for us to come back.”

Koehler agreed.

“We now know what it’s like to be in the CIF finals, we’re going to plan on a stronger off season training regimen and come back stronger,” Koehler added.

Bonita coach Dillon Unsoeld said he felt his team was ready for the challenge.

“We’ve played a tough schedule and played in a lot of very competitive tournaments, so I felt we were ready to play at a high level today,” Unsoeld said.   

Seniors Distaso and Carlson each scored seven goals apiece to lead the Bearcats.

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone