The Palo Alto High School boy’s water polo team (10-10, 7-2) beat their crosstown rival Gunn High School (12-3, 4-1), 10-8, in an important and nail-biting game on Thursday at Gunn High School.
Senior Justyn Cheung led the Vikings with five goals, including the game-winning goal with just over a minute to play. Cheung attributed his success to his teammates.
“It was mainly just the team,” Cheung said. “The team just really pulled through and I was there at the right time.”
Cheung felt that the team was ready and confident to close out the game.
“We knew we were going to win,” Cheung said. “We knew we just had to play hard and we just had to grind it through to the end.”
Sophomore Andrew Jozefov also chipped in with three goals. He described the importance of the game to the De Anza League standings.
“If we didn’t win this game, it would be impossible for us to outright win leagues,” Jozefov said. “Because we won this game, the league title is now a toss-up. Also, it is a rivalry game and we just can’t lose those.”
The Vikings won despite falling to Gunn earlier in the season. Coach Brandon Johnson felt that the team benefitted from mid-season tactical adjustments.
“We made a lot of adjustments coming out of last game [against Gunn] through this middle leg of the season,” Johnson said. “ We have made a lot of defensive adjustments and started making that our main focus. We have also started using our physicality to our advantage.”
The game saw many lead changes and a close finish. Cheung, Jozefov and sophomore John Anderson all scored big goals in the fourth quarter to hang on to the win for Paly.
Jozefov is optimistic for the team and hopes that they can build on their win.
“It gives us extra motivation to finish off the season strong because now we have a chance at the league title and it’s always a confidence booster to beat out cross town rival,” Jozefov said. “Now we know the level that we can play at we just need to focus on being consistent and if we can do that, we’ll have a good shot at not only the league title, but the CCS [Central Coast Section] title.”
The Vikings’ next game will be Tuesday at Gunn High School against Monta Vista High School.