Boys’ water polo falls short in overtime championship thriller

Sam Lee and Ethan Kao

Senior field player Tommy Smale passes down the pool during the league championship against Gunn on Oct. 29 at Los Altos High School. Photo by Sam Lee
Senior field player Tommy Smale passes down the pool during the league championship against Gunn on Oct. 29 at Los Altos High School. Photo by Sam Lee.

The Palo Alto High School boys’ water polo team (16-9, 12-2) came up short in a four overtime thriller with a 10-9 loss to the Gunn High School Titans (16-6, 11-o) in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League finals on Oct. 29 at Los Altos High School.

The two teams traded goals for the majority of the match, with neither Paly nor Gunn able to break away with a significant lead.

With senior field player Andrew Jozefov leading the team in points with three goals, the Vikings fought hard until the end of the fourth overtime, during which the Titans scored the game-winning golden goal to take the championship trophy.

Gunn was able to take a slight advantage by eliminating Paly’s senior star player, Jared Stanley, from the game in the second quarter by frustrating him into three ejections, disqualifying him from the game. Despite having to watch from the bench, Stanley said he was still proud of how his team performed.

“I got majored in the second quarter, but the team did a good job stepping up and this is honestly the best game of water polo we have ever played,” Stanley said.

Although the match ended in a loss, the quadruple overtime thriller displayed the Viking’s intensity and heart, according to Stanley. 

“We played our absolute hardest throughout the entire match,” Stanley said. “We fought on every possession and our defense really connected forcing four overtimes.”

Senior Tommy Smale was pleased with the team’s performance, but felt they could have capitalized on key opportunities.

“It was a very hard fought game on both sides all the way to the end,” Smale said. “It was really frustrating because we got their two best players Patrick [Zhao] and Quinn [Hamilton] out and we should’ve capitalized on that. We thought we could definitely put it away at that point but we never did.”

Senior field player Andrew Jozefov, who scored with less than a minute left in regulation to tie the game at 8-8, describes the Viking’s game plan.

“I matched up with their team’s best players and ended up getting them out of the game,” Jozefov said. “I forced them to take ejections and eventually getting a major.”

Stanley also acknowledged the Paly student section’s for the increased intensity of the game.

“Without the student section, we definitely would not have played as well as we did today,” Stanley said. “The energy in this pool arena really helped us.”

Despite the loss, the team is looking forward to a rematch versus Gunn in Central Coast Section, according to Stanley.

“We are building up momentum and character for CCS and we’re gonna come out fighting harder than we ever have,” Stanley said. “We are definitely going to beat Gunn in CCS.”

The Vikings’ next match will be in the CCS playoffs. The date and location are TBA.