Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Kevin Hoffert takes a shot in Hillsdale's win over Woodside on Tuesday.
The Hillsdale boys’ water polo team has been building the last couple seasons to this year.
Coach Renato Hodzic had a super young team two years with a large group of sophomores. Those sophomores are now seniors and if there was ever a time for the Knights to push for a Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division title, this would be the year.
“I have 10 seniors and one sophomore (on this year’s roster),” Hodzic said. “It all comes together this year.”
The Knights improved to 3-0 in Ocean Division play with an easy 19-5 win over visiting Woodside and looked impressive doing so. Javier Rosas led the Knights’ offense with seven goals, while adding a pair of assists. Kevin Hoffert added five goals and an assist. Erik Rudberg chipped in with three goals, Thomas Durant added a pair, while Brandon Clove, Thomas Mirt and Curtis Cassin each had one goal apiece.
“We’re pretty balanced (offensively) this year,” Hodzic said. “We do trust [Hoffert] a lot, but we have a lot of good shooters from the outside.”
The Knights also have one of the best goaltenders in the Ocean Division as well — both defensively and offensively. Anthony Pappas finished with 13 saves, but was equally effective triggering the Knights’ fastbreak as Pappas finished with a team-leading five assists.
Hodzic said he has designed his defense to funnel opposing offenses toward Pappas, counting on him to make the block and then serve the breakout pass that jump-starts the Hillsdale attack.
“We put a lot of trust in [Pappas] and take advantage of his passing skill,” Hodzic.
Pappas was on top of his game Tuesday as four of his five assists came in the first period as the Knights jumped out to a 7-0 lead, due mainly to Woodside’s inability to keep and slow down the Knights’ fastbreak. It took Hillsdale just over a minute to take a 1-0 lead as Pappas made a save and then threw a pass three-quarters the length of the pool to Hoffert, who had swam past the Woodside defense, and easily put his shot away.
The two hooked up again about a 1 1/2 minutes later. Rudberg gave Hillsdale a 3-0 off an assist from Rosas, who then scored his first goal off an assist from Durant, who recovered a Woodside turnover near midpool and fed Rosas for the easy goal.
Durant then scored off Pappas’ third assist of the period and Rosas scored again off another Pappas assist. Hoffert then scored his second goal of the period off a dish from Mirt with four seconds left in the period.
In the second period, Woodside tightened up its defensive play and held Hillsdale to just three goals, while scoring three itself. The Wildcats got a pair of goals from Mitchell Martin and one from Matt Grandov in the second period as Woodside trailed 10-3 at halftime.
Any thoughts of a Woodside rally were quickly quashed in the third period as Hillsdale scored six unanswered goals to take a 16-3 advantage, with Rosas scoring four straight.
Hodzic called off the dogs in the fourth period, scoring three times. Woodside added its final two goals over the final seven minutes, getting scores from Leo Franco and Grandov.
Despite having a team perceived to be ready to win a division championship, Hodzic said the focus in not on that.
“We don’t worry about wins. We tried that last year and didn’t get the results we wanted,” Hodzic said. “We just try to get better every day.”