Boys’ water polo: Vikings collapse to Gunn in rivalry match

Senior Siddhartha Sahasrabuddhe prepares to pass the ball during the Viking’s rivalry game against Gunn Saturday. Although the team lost, 7-10, head coach Ethan Look said he wants to come out stronger for the last few games of the season. “We just got two games left here for finishing out the rest of our league,” Look said. “[We have] Wilcox on Tuesday and Los Gatos for senior night, and we’d like to win both and just finish strong on that note — playing the last two games with this group … So we want to give it everything we got.” Photo: Avi Srinivasan

In an intense crosstown rivalry, the Palo Alto High School varsity boys’ water polo team (5-5) fell to the Gunn Titans (9-1), 7-10, Saturday afternoon at home.

After suffering losses to both Los Altos and Mountain View in the past week, the Vikings came into Saturday’s game with low expectations. According to head coach Ethan Look, the team was looking to focus more on crafting specific aspects of its playing style, rather than beating the Titans.

“We’ve been tweaking our offense for a couple of weeks now, trying to add a new wrinkle in with some driving motion,” Look said. “So preparing that, we didn’t want to fixate too much on this [game], it was really just carrying out some details.”

In the first quarter, the Vikings remained tenacious offensively and defensively, paralleling the Titans’ quick technique and keeping the score even throughout. Junior goalkeeper Eitan Green was especially dominant, preventing several opposing shots and keeping the Titans at bay. Towards the end of the quarter, Gunn and Paly both scored two goals, leaving the score tied 2-2 to finish the quarter.

In the second quarter, the Titans picked up momentum and scored early, establishing a one point lead. From there, the Vikings had difficulty restraining Gunn’s offense with numerous attempted shots being fired at Paly’s net and several more goals being scored. On the other hand, Paly’s offense struggled to make a defining stride, only managing to score one more goal to end the first half 3-5. 

“Our offense was working well today,” Look said.“We got shots up, they just weren’t finding the back of the net, and defensively we were pretty well locked down.”

In the third quarter, the Titans started separating themselves from the Vikings, asserting themselves over Paly. Additionally, strong drives to the net proved to overwhelm the Vikings and left them trailing for the majority of the quarter. Although Paly showed some resistance when senior Luke Thieman scored a goal towards the end, the Titans ultimately prevailed, leading by four goals at the end of the quarter.

According to junior Jack Haney, although the Vikings’ teamwork excelled, they were unable to create many opportunities offensively.

“I think our team did really well on our driving and overall team chemistry,” Haney said. “But, I think we really struggled on our individuality and [also] how we struggled looking for the extra pass.” 

In the final quarter, the Vikings started picking up momentum and slimming down the Titans’ lead. Various strong drives by Paly’s offense quickly overtook Gunn’s defense and slowly started chipping away at the Titans’ dominance. Although the difference in goals between the Titans and Vikings remained constant for the main part of the quarter, several goals, including a long-range shot from Haney, kept the Vikings strong in the game. Nonetheless, the Titans once again persisted and ended the match, 10-7.

Look said that he attributes many of the mistakes made during the second half to the Vikings’ lack of clear focus.

“I think we got in our heads a little bit in the second half and lost some motion,” Look said.”We lost some drive via downfield and that certainly was to our detriment down the stretch.”

Although the team lost, Haney said he’s hopeful for the last few games of the season.

“I mean, we do have a short season left, but I definitely want to build on creating a stronger team [with] better passing,” Haney said. “And really bringing it back together, especially for the seniors because they’re not here that much longer.”

The Vikings will face off against Wilcox next at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Wilcox.