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Mater Dei finds way to set up another showdown in final
IRVINE - Mater Dei’s quest to follow the path of its rival faced a double-edged threat during the second half of a tight CIF-SS Division 1 boys water polo semifinal Wednesday.
The Monarchs encountered surging Loyola of Los Angeles and its hot goalie. Fortunately for the top-seeded Monarchs, their defense and a freshman emerged to save their night at the Woollett Aquatics Center pool.
Attacker Ian Minsterman scored the go-ahead goal with 3:31 left in the fourth period and senior Will Lapkin collected a field block and two steals at 2 meters during the ensuing challenges, as Mater Dei held off the fourth-seeded Cubs, 7-6, in front of an overflow crowd.
Mater Dei (28-2) advances to Saturday’s final against two-time defending champion and No. 2 seed Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, which earlier defeated Huntington Beach, 12-9, in the other semifinal.
The championship game at Woollett will mark the third consecutive season Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake (24-2) will meet in the finals. The Wolverines won last year's final, 10-7, and collected a 9-6 triumph in 2013.
Minsterman and Lapkin emerged from supporting roles to capture the spotlight after Loyola (24-5) erased Mater Dei’s 6-3 lead at halftime to tie the score, 6-6, early in the fourth period.
Goalie William Rubschlager sparked the Cubs by making eight of his 14 saves in the second half and allowing only Minsterman's winner.
His point-blank save with 30 seconds left in the third set the stage for Henry Chase’s extra-man strike just before the third-period buzzer, cutting Mater Dei’s lead to 6-5.
Miles Schridde then tossed in a lob shot to tie the score, 6-6, 40 seconds into the fourth after another save by Rubschlager.
Minsterman drew an exclusion on a counterattack with just over four minutes left. Mater Dei didn’t convert with the extra attacker coming out of a timeout – Loyola recorded a field block as the Monarchs finished 0 for 5 on the power play – but Minsterman scored on a near-side shot from the short wing with the teams at even strength.
Lapkin finished with seven steals, including one with 20 seconds left that allowed Mater Dei to run out the clock and reach its sixth consecutive Division 1 final.
Mater Dei goalie Nolan Strout also had a key steal with just under three minutes left, and Thomas Dunstan held down 2 meters during another defensive stand.
The Monarchs' defense only loomed larger as Rubschlager made huge blocks, Mater Dei's shots found posts and the Cubs hustled for a steal or field block. The Monarchs made 1 for 12 shots in the second half.
Luke Wyatt paced Mater Dei’s offense with three goals in the first half. The Monarchs never trailed in the game. They led, 5-2, in the second period after a perimeter strike by Jackson Seybold and, 6-3, after a strike by Wyatt off a foul with 2:50 left in the frame.
Loyola finished 3 for 5 on the man-advantage.
Also in Division 1:
Harvard-Westlake 12, Huntington Beach 9: Felix Borzyna-Vilim scored four goals and Ben Hallock added three to lead the Wolverines, who held a 10-4 lead going into the fourth.
Attacker Skyler Munatones led the Sunset League champions with three goals, and goalie Patrick Saunders made nine saves, but the Oilers (23-7) fell to 0-4 against the Wolverines this fall.
“We played our best match against them so far,” Huntington Beach coach Sasa Branisavljevic said. "In order to beat Harvard-Westlake, for our team, we would have had to play the perfect game and it was pretty close to it."
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