The top-three reasons why Orange Lutheran's boys water polo team beat Mater Dei for the first time Wednesday night, snapping the Monarchs' nine-year dominance in the Trinity League:
Orange Lutheran started and finished better with their defense setting the tone:The Lancers borrowed a few pages of the script from Mater Dei's heyday and established quick control early with their defense. They didn't land the early knockout like the Monarchs' teams of the past used to but Orange Lutheran built some early confidence in a road match and that helped them later find the composure to answer Mater Dei's surges, especially in overtime.
After Mater Dei's Christian Hockenbury won the game's first-period sprint, Orange Lutheran opened with a strong press defense and Sam Sasaki made a quick steal near midpool. The Lancers soon capitalized by drawing an exclusion at center. Matt Kacura then threaded a pass in front of the Mater Dei cage to Parker Killion, who redirected the ball for a goal and 1-0 lead less than a minute into the first period.
Orange Lutheran's press defense also sparked a counterattack strike by Kacura later in the first off a pass by Sasaki. The Lancers led, 2-0, in the first period and it could have been 4-0 but they had at least two shots hit the post.
Mater Dei was forced into catch-up mode the rest of the night. The Monarchs led only once, 3-2, for 49 seconds of the second period. Mater Dei, however, tied the score four times in regulation to force overtime but Orange Lutheran scored the first three goals of the first extra period.
In Orange Lutheran's overtime surge, Ash Molthen made an early steal and Kucura later scored on a counterattack off a field block.
Orange Lutheran has developed a strong supporting cast and cohesive chemistry: The Lancers won arguably the biggest game in their history with their best player, lefty Molthen, netting three goals and focusing on setting up other players and arguably their second-best player, Hannes Daube, going scoreless and also looking for others.
With Mater Dei's defense clearly focused on Molthen and Daube, Kacura scored a season-high give goals.
Sasaki, a junior lefty, emerged as a breakout player with a cross-cage lob off the side post for a counterattack strike with 1:11 left in the first half. Sasaki also scored from the perimeter with 27 seconds left in the half to give the Lancers a 5-4 lead. Sasaki already has 21 goals after netting only 16 all of last season, including none against Mater Dei in the league game.
Sasaki gives Orange Lutheran a second left-hander for goalies to worry about and further balances the pool for other shooters.
Killion, a senior, is another improved player for the Lancers.
Orange Lutheran avoided exclusions better: The Lancers were whistled for eight exclusions while Mater Dei racked up 13, including three in the opening seven minutes. Daube drew a key exclusion early in the fourth period, which Orange Lutheran converted for a 9-6 lead, which ramped up the pressure on the Monarchs. Mater Dei outscored Orange Lutheran, 4-1, the rest of the fourth period but the Lancers had the final say in overtime.
Mater Dei freshman Cooper Haddad scored the only goal of the second three-minute overtime, with 1:30 left, but picked up a game exclusion afterward that will cost him a two-game suspension, Monarchs coach Chris Segesman said.