In the season opener, the Capuchino boys’ water polo team had a two-goal lead in the fourth quarter, only to lose by a goal to Aragon.
But Mustangs’ head coach Marc Keirns knew his team could play with the Dons.
That was the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division opener last month and that win propelled the Dons to a six-game winning streak and a spot atop the division standings.
Wednesday marked the start of the second round and this time, the Mustangs were ready.
Despite falling behind 2-0 in the first period, Capuchino got its offense in gear and shut down a suddenly timid Aragon squad to pull away for an 11-6 Mustangs’ win.
“We went down 2-nothing to start and it’s easy to tighten up,” Keirns said. “Then we woke up.”
Capuchino’s win brought Aragon back to the pack, dropping the Dons into a first-place tie with Woodside Priory with 6-1 records. The Mustangs are now just a game behind at 5-2.
“It was not our best game. It’s incredibly disappointing,” said Aragon head coach Carly DeMarchena. “I know we can play better and hope to move past this.”
Capuchino was led by hole set Patrick Volkman and wing Frank Pellegrini, who both netted hat tricks and assisted on a fourth. Luke Hafer added a pair of goals, while George Atallah, Jacob Askins and Connor McKenna all scored once for the Mustangs. Atallah also added three assists, with Dylan Singer and Armand Royeca assisting on a goals as well.
Capuchino goaltender Jason Aresenault had a strong effort. He finished with 12 saves — including one a 5-meter penalty shot in the third period.
Aragon got a pair of goals from both Kris Nguyen and Barsam Shokri. Jack Rayborn and Peter Martin each scored once for the Dons, who got assists from Nguyen, Cole Richardson and Howard Hong.
The Mustangs’ strong play forced the Dons into mistakes and fouls they might not otherwise make, which led to Aragon playing without some of its top players when they needed them the most because of an accumulation of ejections.
That, in turn, put players in position they might not normally play and suddenly the Dons were thinking too much and not reacting.
In all, Capuchino had the man-advantage 10 times. The Mustangs scored goals on five of them.
“They took advantage almost every time we were down (a man),” DeMarchena said.
After being shut out in the opening period, Capuchino found its groove in the second. It started with Volkman getting the Mustangs on the scoreboard when he muscled up and buried a shot from the hole set with a defender draped on his back.
Forty-five seconds later, Volkman tied the match at 2-all, scoring on the restart following an Aragon infraction.
The Dons stemmed the tide briefly, with Martin firing home a shot from the right point to put Aragon back up, 3-2 at the 4:33 mark of the second period.
But Capuchino was feeling it now. The Mustangs had a shot deflected away by Aragon goaltender Kelton King and another shot clanging off the left post, before tying the score again. Singer dished to Hafer on the right wing, who buried a shot on the power play to tie the game at 3-all.
There was a big swing in the final minute of the first half that sent the momentum to the Mustangs. Aragon thought it re-took the lead with Rayborn scored on a one-timer in front of the goal with 1:04 left in the half — but the referee waved it off because Rayborn was inside two meters.
Capuchino took advantage of the turnover, triggering a fast break with Singer finding Atallah with a long pass and goal for a 4-3 Capuchino advantage with 50 left in the second period.
“We beat ourselves in the second quarter, making basic mistakes, DeMarchena said. “And they took advantage.”
That second-period, four-goal outburst ignited the Mustangs. They came out in the third quarter and scored on the first four shots to take command of the match, 8-4, three of which came on the power play.
Askins opened the second-half scoring with the goal of the game less than a minute in. From the other end of the pool, Royeca lofted a perfect pass to Askins in the set. With an Aragon defender on his back and second one collapsing, Askins corralled the ball and spun, sweeping the ball past the two defenders and the goaltender for a spectacular strike and a 5-3 lead.
Later in the period, Pellegrini wore out the left post, scoring three straight times from the left wing, twice scoring with the Dons down a man.
“You do it until they stop it,” Keirns said.
Pellegrini then capped the five-goal quarter for the Mustangs by feeding Volkman on the left post for a goal and 9-4 Capuchino lead going into the fourth quarter.
Hafer and McKenna rounded out the scoring for the Mustangs in the final period, while Shokri accounted for the Dons’ goal.
“Defensively we locked down and that led to offense,” Keirns said. “We had six guys score and played good team defense.”
Said DeMarchena: “I know we can play good water polo and that’s what’s frustrating.”