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FOSTER SNELL, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Mater Dei players celebrate their CIF-SS Division 1 Championship win against Harvard-Westlake at Woollett Aquatics Center on Saturday.

Mater Dei ends the pain, and Harvard-Westlake's reign, in Div. 1 final

STAFF WRITER

hIRVINE As the final buzzer rang out Saturday night, a Mater Dei water polo player raced behind Monarchs coach Chris Segesman, grabbed him around the waist and sent him diving into the pool, igniting a wild celebration by the team.

Another player did a flip into the pool, and the Monarchs splashed and partied at the Woollett Aquatics Center after ending a two-year struggle against their archrival.

Left-hander Luke Wyatt scored the go-ahead goal on a counterattack with 3:10 left in the fourth and top-seeded Mater Dei played lockdown-defense for the final 81/2 minutes to beat two-time defending champion Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, 9-8, in the CIF-SS Division 1 final before a capacity crowd.

Mater Dei (29-2) had lost in the final to Harvard-Westlake the past two seasons, but won three of four against the No. 2 Wolverines (23-3) this fall, including Saturday’s final that delivered the team its sixth section title (four in Division 1).

Harvard-Westlake took the final shot, but the perimeter attempt hit off a side post against goalie Nolan Strout, who made nine saves.

“We just couldn’t go this season without winning (the title),” said Mater Dei center Sean Duncan, who scored a team-high three goals. “That was the goal. As a team, we’re ecstatic to win.”

Segesman clinched his fists as he looked at the Mater Dei student cheering section, hugged standout Thomas Dunstan (two goals) and high-fived all his players.

“It’s been a while,” he said with a smile. “The emotions are special because I’m so proud of these guys. We call it a journey every year. … We’ve had some great battles with Harvard and they’ve had some unbelievable teams.”

Harvard-Westlake led, 8-7, going into the fourth, but Mater Dei’s Elias Lule tied the score with an extra-man strike from the short wing with 4:15 left. The Monarchs finished 6 for 8 on the power play.

Wyatt (two goals) led the winning counterattack after Harvard-Westlake’s Ben Hallock misfired on an extra-man chance. The Wolverines finished 3 for 10 with the extra attacker.

Mater Dei again slowed Hallock. The U.S. national team center finished with one goal. The Monarchs dropped extra defenders at 2 meters, sometimes triple-teaming the Stanford commit.

Hallock and his teammates clapped for Mater Dei at the awards ceremony.

“Ben Hallock is the best player in the United States,” Harvard coach Brian Flacks said. “For him to get so few touches in a game like that, it hurts. … A lot of credit to Mater Dei.”

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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