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Boys water polo player of the year: Bennett Williams, Dana Hills
Thoughtful words tried to capture what Bennett Williams accomplished in the pool.
Descriptions such as his “will,” “man child” and “fiery” all flowed from Dana Hills boys water polo coach Matt Rosa this fall when he talked about Williams.
The remarks rang true. Williams led the Dolphins to their first appearance in a CIF-SS final with a sensational season that was full of moments that wowed spectators and stunned opponents.
The list of descriptions for Williams can now include Register player of the year. The Stanford commit is the first Dana Hills player to win the award in at least 29 years and could be the first one ever.
For all the words, there also is a story that helps explain Williams’ motivation, which ran mostly rough-shot over the competition.
During a critical match in late July at the Junior Olympics, Williams’ Orange County Water Polo Club 18-and-under team lost to Stanford on a buzzer-beating goal by a player who posted up and scored against Williams at 2 meters.
“I was the young guy. I didn’t want to let down all the seniors,” Williams said. “It (was) totally my fault. … I should have just bear-hugged him (for a foul or exclusion).”
Williams carried his disappointment toward the high school season, but it soon became a roaring fire inside of him.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It was a lot easier to motivate myself to swim hard and lift more when I remembered the times I did poorly, and that I didn’t want to do that again.”
Williams stormed through the season, racking up 113 goals, 47 assists and 61 steals, all team highs. The 6-foot-3 senior led Dana Hills (25-7, 8-0) to a fifth-place finish at the South Coast Tournament and another South Coast League title.
He saved his best for the Division 2 playoffs.
The South Coast League co-MVP netted the winning goal on a power play with 2:07 left in the fourth period in a 10-9 victory against Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, he erupted for three counterattack goals in the fourth period to lead the Dolphins past Mira Costa, 11-8, and into the their first section final.
On the go-ahead goal, he stretched high to catch a pass on a counter, spun between two defenders and fired a hard shot into the cage.
In an epic final against top-seeded and defending champion Foothill for the Division 2 final, Williams muscled in a sweep shot off a foul at 5 meters with 53 seconds left in second regular overtime that tied the score and forced sudden-death.
Williams, a former U.S. youth team player, scored a game-high three goals in the match and made a key steal at the end of regulation, but Foothill won, 6-5, in double sudden-death overtime.
“He came through a lot,” Dana Hills goalie Riley Zachary said. “A lot of teams tried to double-team him, but we still won a lot of games.”
And the descriptions of Williams continued.
“Bennett is a fiery, vocal leader who loves to compete,” Rosa said of the school’s career leader in goals (282) and drawn exclusions (203). “(He) would always make a great play in the clutch.”
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