Loyola’s varsity water polo team is no stranger to experienced Division 1 competition. Finishing as the Mission League runner-up, varsity water polo powered through the CIF Southern Section semifinals and found themselves face to face against Oaks Christian on Nov. 13 in the match for the title. Neither team had taken the Division 1 crown before, giving both teams significant motivation going into the final game.
At the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine, fans of both teams gather in the stands to watch the showdown between the Loyola Cubs and the Oaks Christian Lions. Each team has brought along their respective mascots, and they’re nearly identical. Loyola has a massive student and parent turnout, with two-thirds of the stands sporting Loyola blue. The energy around the pool is palpable as neither team is prepared to go home without a victory under their belts. The seniors who have been playing for the team since their freshman year are particularly excited for the game. The team’s journey up to this point has been years in the making.
Attacker Christopher Wazzan ‘22 remarked, “We had already made it so far there was just one last step we had to make.”
As the referees signal the start of the match, Loyola strikes first and takes possession of the ball. The first shot on goal of the game bounces out off the beam of Oaks Christian’s goal. Despite early plays by Loyola, the first period concludes with one goal scored by Loyola to Oaks Christian’s two. The second period finished with similar results, with Loyola just trailing behind Oaks Christian with a score of 5-4, though two of Oaks Christian’s five goals came from penalty shots.
Going into the third period, the pool lights come on, marking a turning point for Loyola. Despite being set back by penalties in the first half, Loyola takes the lead, scoring three goals in the third period, eliciting massive cheers from the anxious supporters in the stands. Adding to the excitement of the third period, Loyola’s defense doesn’t allow Oaks Christian to score once. The fourth period only sees Loyola’s lead grow as the varsity team continues to play at the top of their game. Despite Oaks Christian scoring a goal, Loyola scores two more, closing out the game with an impressive thirty-second block by utility player Trey Rogers ‘22 and a final score of 9-7.
Loyola’s side of the stands erupts with cheers as players, fully-clothed coaches, and even some spectators jump into the pool to celebrate the historic win. The varsity players finish the momentous night with a roaring “triple L” chant in the pool before drying off and taking home the plaque.
Wazzan said, “From here on I think that the team is going to look to keep the precedent that we’ve set.”
There are certainly big shoes for next year’s team to fill, but from the looks of it, the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen are up to the challenge. Go Cubs!