Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Javier Rosas shoots and scores for Hillsdale
It was a Peninsula Athletic League showdown when the Half Moon Bay boys’ water polo team traveled to San Mateo to face Hillsdale Tuesday afternoon.
The Cougars came into the match 4-1 in Ocean Division play, a game behind both Mills and Hillsdale, who are 5-0. By the time the final horn sounded, the Knights were another game clear of Half Moon Bay in the standings, thanks to a 13-10 win.
“It was a tough game,” said Hillsdale coach Ren Hodzic. “[Half Moon Bay has] a really good defense and they’re fast, so they tested us.”
Fortunately for Hodzic, his team was just a little bit better defensively and just a smidge faster. Actually, it was the Hillsdale defense that jump-started its offense. And that defense begins with goaltender Anthony Pappas, who not only finished with 15 saves, but also assisted on six of the Knights goals.
“Tony does a great job,” Hodzic said.
Thomas Simons also played well in the cage for Half Moon Bay, finishing with 14 blocks.
Also playing tough defensively for the Knights was Javier Rosas. Known more as an offensive player, it was Rosas’ defense — especially in the third period — that held the Cougars at bay. Several times Half Moon Bay appeared to have a breakaway and each time Rosas came out of know where to thwart the attack.
“Once we got up a couple of goals, we kinda put him (Rosas) in the back (defensively),” Hodzic said. “That was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Javvy.”
Half Moon Bay coach Justin Ferdinand said those failed opportunities did in his team.
“We just missed a lot of advantageous opportunities that then became opportunities the other way,” Ferdinand said.
All told, the Hillsdale’s defense came away with 19 steals, while the Cougars committed seven turnovers.
The match started well for Half Moon Bay (4-2 PAL Ocean), as the Cougars scored on their first two shots of the game to take a quick 2-0 lead less than a minute and a half into the contest. Jackson Crane fed Dylan Cummings for a power-play goal at the 6:21-mark of the first period and Crane gave the Cougars a 2-0 less than 40 seconds later when he took a pass from Simons and buried a shot on a counterattack.
Despite the quick deficit, Hodzic said his team never panicked.
“One, it was pretty early (in the match) and my guys are pretty confident,” Hodzic said. “It’s not the first time it’s happened. We knew if we stayed the course, it’s going to even out.”
Hillsdale (6-0) responded about 30 seconds later with its first goal. From the left wing, Erik Rudberg dumped a pass into the path of a driving Brandon Clore, who beat two defenders to the ball and slipped a shot past the goaltender to cut the Half Moon Bay lead to 2-1.
The Cougars got the goal back on a score from Garrett Kern, but the Knights answered with three unanswered goals to take the lead for good, 4-3, after one period of play.
Kevin Hoffert scored the final two goals of the period for Hillsdale and finished with a team-high six.
“He did a good job of stepping up,” Hodzic said. “He’s shown the ability to do that all year. … We really haven’t seen anyone in the league who can match up with him.”
Hoffert scored his third goal in a row to start the second period and stretch the Knights’ lead to 5-3, but another goal from Half Moon Bay’s Cummings again cut the Hillsdale lead to one, 5-4.
Hillsdale, however, went on to score four more goals in the period — a pair each from Rosas and Rudberg — to lead 9-6 at halftime.
The third period was a defensive struggle as the teams combined to score only three times. Hillsdale played smothering defense in the third, holding the Cougars to just two shots, only one of which was on frame.
In the fourth period with Half Moon Bay applying pressure, the Cougars outscored the Knights 3-2, but it was too little, too late for Half Moon Bay.
Despite the loss, Ferdinand was pleased with his team’s effort.
“To play at this level, you have to be consistent for four quarters and we were consistent for three,” Ferdinand said. “But we never quit. We’re going to keep going.”