Warriors win 3-2 at RB Invite to open water polo season

The RB Invite boys’ water polo tournament hosted by Rancho Bernardo High School opened Fallbrook High School’s 2017 season, Aug. 24-26, and the Warriors posted a 3-2 record in the tournament.

“I felt like the boys played very well,” Fallbrook coach Bill Richardson said.

This year’s Fallbrook team has 13 varsity players, including a sophomore who splits time between the junior varsity and varsity teams. Ten of the varsity players are seniors, and the other two are juniors. Nine of last year’s varsity squad members are back with the Warriors, including five starters.

“It’s a pretty deep group,” Richardson said. “It’s not a huge dropoff from the top to the bottom. We’re trying to keep the boys rotated.”

Seven of the seniors have played together since they were on the Tribe or Fallbrook Associated Swim Team clubs in junior high school.

“They’ve stuck together all these years. They work well together,” Richardson said.

Some of the players have sufficient aquatics proficiency to have paid lifeguard positions during the summer and on weekends. Although boys water polo teams were allowed to begin practice as early as Aug. 1, Richardson did not convene the team until Aug. 7, and he did not have all of his players until Aug. 14.

“We got off to a slow start with practices,” he said. “We’re pretty far behind other teams.”

That placed Fallbrook at a disadvantage when the Warriors opened the tournament with an Aug. 24 match against Rancho Bernardo at the Broncos’ pool. The Broncos took a 9-3 victory in that contest.

Fallbrook’s other Aug. 24 match at the Rancho Bernardo pool was a 17-2 victory over Mira Mesa. Nine different Fallbrook players scored goals, senior goalkeeper Jacob Cain saved nine Marauders shots and the Warriors had 13 steals.

“Playing good defense is kind of our focus right now,” Richardson said.

The offense would make the ultimate difference in the Warriors’ match, Aug. 25, against Valley Center at Rancho Bernardo. The game was tied at 10 goals apiece after regulation, triggering sudden-death overtime. Tanner Curnow won the sprint to start the overtime period, and on that possession Curnow also took a pass from Gage Oppenborn and scored the winning goal of the 11-10 game.

“It was a great win,” Richardson said.

Valley Center won last year’s CIF Division II championship. The Jaguars also won the 2016 Valley League championship; a 16-10 victory over Fallbrook at Adams Community Park Pool accounted for the Warriors’ only league loss of the season. The two teams will meet this year for Valley League play, Oct. 18, in Fallbrook.

Fallbrook’s Aug. 26 games were played at The Bishop’s School. Although players on other teams missed competition to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, none of the Fallbrook players missed either game for the SAT.

“That was helpful,” Richardson said.

Eight different players scored in Fallbrook’s 20-7 victory over Mater Dei.

“We just had a lot of kids score,” Richardson said.

The Warriors expanded their lead as the game progressed.

“We kept a high tempo throughout the game, and they got really worn down,” Richardson said.

His lifeguard job prevented Curnow from playing against Point Loma in the second game, Aug. 26, and the Warriors also played most of the second half without Chase Norfolk due to the water polo rule that a player is “majored” from the game after drawing his third 20-second exclusion penalty. That ruling allowed other Fallbrook players to see action and test their competitive ability against the Pointers, but Point Loma was on the winning end of the 13-12 final score.

“It was a good back and forth game, very physical game,” Richardson said. “Our players matched their intensity, which was good.”

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