June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Segerstrom scores in final minute for comeback win over Whittier in CIF playoffs

Segerstrom’s water polo team celebrates after Thursday’s comeback win over Whittier. (Photo: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Segerstrom High School’s boys water polo team has already had quite a season, capturing the Golden West League title for the first time in a couple years.

But Thursday’s home match will likely be near the top of the Jaguars’ memories too.

Segerstrom rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat Whittier 10-9 on a goal by senior Calvin Manalo with about 30 seconds left in a CIF Division 5 second round contest, helping the team advance to the quarterfinals Saturday in Long Beach vs. Cabrillo. Manalo had four goals for Segerstrom (19-9).

Segerstrom had to hold off one final shot by Whittier in the final seconds but goalie Gabriel Margo made the save and the celebration was on.

“Calvin Manalo is a great athlete,” said Segerstrom Coach Michael Varela. “He actually played goalie for his whole club career and he came out of the goal because he wanted to try something new and that creative shooting comes from all that time in the goal. That kid was on fire today. I’m real proud of him.”

Mario Valenzuela led the Jaguars with five goals. Fabian Sanchez had the other goal for Segerstrom.

To see additional photos, click on the first picture:

Segerstrom took an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter before Whittier battled back and moved ahead 5-4 at halftime.

Whittier took a 9-7 lead on a goal by Isaiah Wright with 5:21 left in the contest but Valenzuela answered with two goals to tie it, setting up the game winner by Manalo.

“Last second you got to lock in and really decide what’s best and I was in a zone and I knew the best shot was to just lob it with some finesse,” said Manalo. “That’s a cherry on top for my whole career.

“It all came down to just keeping calm. Our team is good at that to know it’s not over. We keep a good attitude, I think that’s our best attribute. We never give up.” 

The league title was also special.

“That was a great experience. We put a lot of effort into that,” Manalo said. “Since last year and the year before that, we really wanted that league championship.”

The victory Thursday avenged the Jaguars’ 13-8 loss to Whittier earlier in the season at Whittier.

Wright had four goals and Alonzo Cienfuegos three goals to lead Whittier.

BONUS COVERAGE: Check out video of the game-winning goal and the celebration on X, @ocsportszone


—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com