By John Baker
SAN MATEO – Lightning had already struck once for St. Ignatius in the Central Coast Section Division II boys water polo playoffs, but the Wildcats heard only Los Altos thunder on Thursday night.
The seventh-seeded Wildcats, who surprised No. 2 seed Menlo School in the quarterfinals last weekend, couldn’t keep up with third-seeded Los Altos and were eliminated with a 15-8 loss in a semifinal matchup at Serra High School.
“They’ve been a perennial contender in CCS for years,” said St. Ignatius head coach Daniel Figoni. “I think we surprised some people by even being in this game. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”
St. Ignatius (14-9) came out strong, with 2-meter specialist Maximillian Schuam scoring just 20 seconds into the match from about 18 feet out, then added a second goal from the same spot less than a minute later. Reilley May added on for the Wildcats on a 5-meter shot about 3 minutes into the game and the teams ended the first quarter tied at 3-3.
Then, the Los Altos defense took over. The Lions (18-11) ran a collapsing zone that shut down the Wildcats’ inside game and caused numerous problems for their outside attack. St. Ignatius was shut out in the second quarter and, despite getting goals from May (on a power play) and Tony Baxter, gave up six goals in the third.
By the time the Lions’ Ian McColl scored on a half-pool breakaway late in the third quarter, it was all but over for St. Ignatius.
“It’s a tough zone to try to break down,” Figoni said. “I think the real issue was not being able to stop them in the offensive zone. McColl and [Los Altos forward Sam Lisbonne] were too much for us to handle.”
St. Ignatius added goals from George Healy, May (his third) and Henry Holscher in the final period, but it was much too late.
“They’re strong and they can turn from the outside,” Figoni said of the Los Altos front line. “When we were successful in hopping on them, other guys seemed to get open in the middle of the pool and got easy looks, and that was really the difference.”
St. Ignatius finishes its season with the loss while Los Altos will take on Sacred Heart Prep in the championship game on Saturday.