The defense for the Aragon girls’ water polo team is definitely ahead of the offense as the Dons opened 2018 play by hosting St. Ignatius.

The Dons held a solid Wildcats squad to just four goals Wednesday. The Aragon offense, however, could only manage a pair as the Dons dropped a 4-2 decision as they try to replace eight players from last year’s squad.

“This is a team who has never played together before,” said Aragon senior utility player Maria Sell, who scored both her team’s goals.

The most glaring issue facing the Dons Wednesday was an inability to get into their offense in a timely fashion. Many times, the offense was triggered by an ill-advised pass or they took so long to get into their offense that they had to hurry a shot.

“We have a very young team,” said Aragon head coach Roxanne Tursi, adding her squad has just two seniors and three freshmen.

“They’re still getting used to the varsity level of play.”

Despite the offensive shortcomings, Aragon managed to stay in the match thanks to its defense. Dons’ goaltender Hannah Flynn did her part, finishing with 10 saves. Aragon also came up with 11 steals as the Dons at times frustrated the Wildcats, who had offensive struggles of their own.

S.I. scored the only goal in the first period as Lucia Sarimsakci took a pass on the left wing, drove on goal and fired a shot past Flynn at the 4:39 mark.

It stayed that way until early in the second period when Sarimsakci stole the ball at midpool and broke in on goal, scoring the second of her four goals less than 30 seconds into the period.

Aragon had its chances in the second, earning four power plays, but misfiring on each one.

Just past the midway point of the second quarter, the Wildcats took a 3-0 lead when they first earned a kickout for the man-advantage and then were awarded a 5-meter penalty shot, which Sarimsakci put into the upper left corner.

Despite being down three, Tursi tried to rally her team at halftime.

“(I told them) ‘We’re in this game. We’re getting opportunities,’” Tursi said. “We just have to have a better awareness of the ball.”

Whatever Tursi said, it worked, because Aragon started to find more of a rhythm offensively — due mostly to the effort the Dons were giving on defense. S.I. managed only two shots in the third quarter and had several other possessions that ended in turnovers or Aragon steals.

With the Dons getting better starting positions on offense, they went to work. About midway through the period, Aragon got out on the fast break, with Pia Yoon finding an unmarked Sell on the left wing. She buried her shot for the Dons’ first goal of the 2018 season and got them back into the game.

Just more than 30 seconds later, Aragon cut its deficit to 3-2 when Yoon, once again, found Sell on another fast break. From in front of the goal, Sell sent a shot home and the Dons were down just a goal.

Aragon had an excellent chance to tie the game on the man-advantage, but Ruby Vogel’s shot went just wide.

It appeared the Wildcats had a two-goal cushion midway through the fourth period when Claire Cruse scored from the set, but the goal was waved off because of an offensive foul just before Cruse released her shot.

With a minute and a half to play, S.I. finally got that two-goal cushion as goaltender Karina Yamini hit Sarimsakci down the left flank with a pass. The sophomore Sarimsakci drove in on goal and, needing to only beat Flynn, scored on the short side for a 4-2 advantage.

Aragon, unfortunately, could not recapture the same mojo it had working in the third as the Dons turned the ball over on their final four possessions of the match.

“(It was a) wake-up call,” Sell said. “We’ve been practicing individual elements in practice. (This match) shows what we need to work on.”

Boys’ water polo

Hillsdale 11, Aragon 8

The Knights went from nearly not having team because of a lack of coach, to winning their 2018 debut with a win over the rival Dons.

Hillsdale boys water polo

Hillsdale’s Frankie Hernandez scored seven goals in the Knights’ 11-8 win over Aragon.

Dan Hibson, a former Hillsdale girls’ basketball coach earlier this decade, took over the program just so there would be a team. Now, he’s figuring out the game on the fly.

“[The team] knows I don’t know the game, but I know how to coach,” Hibson said. “Hustle and effort. If they can do that, we’ll be OK.”

They’ll also be OK if Frankie Hernandez continues to play the way he did Wednesday. The sophomore scored seven of his team’s 11 goals, including all four in the third period that turned a 6-6 tie at halftime, into a comfortable 10-7 lead going into the final quarter.

Thomas Dachauer scored Hillsdale’s final goal at the 5:37 mark of the fourth.

Aragon was led by Fabrizio Cuerva and Peter Martin, who each scored three times.

“We had a great first half,” said Aragon head coach Carly DeMarchena. “(The difference) was a combination of running out of gas and still trying to figure what positions guys will be in.”

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