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CIF-bound Sharks trip up Foothill Tech
With a thrilling 7-6 victory in hand and a league championship clinched, the Malibu girls water polo team had one thing left to do on Wednesday, Feb. 8: push their coach into the pool.
The playoff-bound squad wasted no time knocking coach Hayden Goldberg into the water, where just moments earlier they’d locked up likely the greatest win of the season against rival Foothill Tech.
“I’ve been waiting to hit the water with these girls for four years,” a sopping wet Goldberg said afterward. “The past four years, these seniors have gotten their butts kicked. It’s big competition in our league and we’ve always come in third or second place.”
Goldberg said he knew coming into the year that he had a special group of girls, and the team has not disappointed. The 16-6 Sharks finished the regular season on Wednesday with a perfect 6-0 record in league.
Entering Wednesday’s game, the Sharks were ready for a showdown with talented Foothill Tech, who Malibu defeated earlier in the season in Ventura by a score of 8-6. A victory would guarantee a league title and a higher seed in the upcoming CIF Playoffs.
Foothill Tech scored the first goal of the game, but Malibu fought back with three straight first quarter goals. Just as a member of the crowd yelled “rip it!” Zoe Detweiler threw in the first Shark goal, followed by scores by Alex Mora and Rayna Ney.
All day long, junior goalie Gabi Cano seemed to be coming up with timely saves. Despite giving up six goals total, Cano was active throughout the matchup and several times deflected what would have been go-ahead goals, especially in the final frame.
“Unbelievable. She’s been getting better every game,” Goldberg said, of Cano.
It was a game of runs by both teams. Malibu ended the first quarter with a 3-1 lead, but Foothill Tech closed the gap to make it 3-3 early in the second. The Sharks worked the ball around, and timely passes led to two of the next three scores. Malibu went into halftime up 6-3.
In the third quarter, Foothill Tech again stormed back, scoring three straight goals to tie the game at 6-6. Malibu’s opponent had all the momentum, with one quarter left to decide the league championship. The tension in the crowd was palpable.
In the fourth quarter, junior Gaia Hinds took matters into her own hands. Hinds, a utility player, had already scored twice and looked determined to get the winning score. Her first two attempts were denied, while on the defensive end Cano continued to block the Foothill Tech shots. Finally, with three minutes remaining, Hinds got in close and threw in the go-ahead goal. As the crowd went wild, Hinds pumped her fist.
“We had a timeout play that we’ve used. If we run it with intensity, it really pulls people away from the ball. It’s one of the timeout plays we’ve been doing a lot in practice and it really worked in the most crucial time in the game,” Goldberg said.
Three more tense minutes of good defense was all that was required, and the Sharks were up to the challenge. With 20 seconds remaining, Foothill Tech took a timeout and then ran one final play. However, it was no match for the Malibu defense, and the Dragons were unable to get off a clean shot.
“I’ve kind of always put it into their heads that you have to play for four quarters,” Goldberg said. “Whether you’re up or you’re down, it’s never over. It just shows here that it comes down to the last minute of the game to show who’s the top dog. Today, we were.”
Malibu will host the first round playoff matchup at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, squaring off against the Arlington Lions of Riverside.