Coming into high school, Owen Taylor would have been the starting water polo goalkeeper at nearly any school he decided to attend.

Except one.

At Menlo-Atherton, Owen Taylor was behind twin brother Jake Taylor and while the two shared time in the net, Jake Taylor was the first-half starter and Owen Taylor got the final two quarters.

Midway through his sophomore year in 2019, however, Owen Taylor decided to change positions and transition to a field player.

“(M-A head coach Tim Kates) had wanted one of us to switch (to the field) since our freshman year,” Owen Taylor said. “I’m very happy [Kates] made the decision.”

Turns out it was a great choice — not just for Owen Taylor, but for the Bears. A sophomore on the M-A 2019 Central Coast Section Division I championship team, Owen Taylor saw there would be a need over the following two seasons for someone to pair with Julian Montoya, who has developed into one of the top hole sets in CCS, to give the Bears some offensive punch.

Looks like the Bears have found their man. Owen Taylor put on a display against Burlingame in a Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division meeting, scoring six times to lead the Bears to a 17-8 win to stay undefeated in league play.

“When he got into the field, it seemed like he was excited to be in there,” Kates said. “He’s just an Energizer Bunny. He has length and a lot of speed.”

Both were on display Tuesday. While Owen Taylor has a great relationship with brother Jake when he’s in the cage, he had a nice rapport going with backup netminder Luka Perezich, who got the start in net Tuesday as Jake Taylor got some field run against the Panthers.

Perezich, in addition to finishing with 10 saves, also assisted on four of Owen Taylor’s six goals. Owen Taylor would simply break out faster and beat the Burlingame defense down the pool.

“[Owen Taylor] is really pushing the counter,” Kates said. “But we go into games with a lot of offensive plays and try to run our offense more than we have in the past. We’re trying to do a lot more stuff as a team (offensively).”

Owen Taylor later showed the tenacity in the second period that Kates loves. Picking up his defense at midpool, Taylor fouled a Burlingame attacker twice before his defensive hounding eventually forced a Panther turnover.

Owen Taylor quickly turned and sprinted down the pool, received the pass and buried his shot to put the Bears up 9-4 just before halftime.

“I’ve just been refining my passing and shooting,” Taylor said.

The Bears opened the scoring a little more than a minute into the first quarter on an Owen Taylor drive. M-A had a chance to put the Panthers away early, but the Bears got a little too cute offensively — making one too many passes or trying to use several different dekes before slipping a shot past the goalkeeper.

Burlingame polo: Jonathan Kon

Burlingame’s Jonathan Kon winds up for a shot during the Panthers’ loss to M-A.

Defensively, the Bears weren’t really locking down the Panthers, who did manage six first-period shots.

Aaron Krimer’s shot from the hole set tied the game for Burlingame at 1-all and, when Sean Lennane put home a pass from Krimer, the Panthers trailed just 4-2 after the first period and started to gain confidence they could play with the Bears.

“[Kates] gets on us, telling us we need to come out harder,” Owen Taylor said.

M-A, however, was done playing around and turned its game up a notch in the second quarter. Montoya opened the scoring for the Bears with a massive wind-up and goal on a 5-meter penalty shot, but Burlingame answered with a Krimer power play goal to keep the Panthers’ deficit at two goals, 5-3.

M-A responded by scoring six of the next seven goals. Owen Taylor scored three times over the final three minutes, with Montoya scoring his second goal of the quarter just before the halftime horn.

Montoya finished with a hat trick for the Bears.

The second half was about getting the bench players some playing time for M-A, with Karim Nasr scoring a pair of third-period goals.

Burlingame was led by Krimer, who finished with four goals and an assist. Dmitriy Luck added a pair of goals for the Panthers.

The M-A victory is just the latest in a string of them. The Bears won the Spartan Invitation hosted by Mountain View over the weekend, taking out Woodside in the semifinals and Mitty in the championship match.

The Bears have only three losses on the season, all to state powers: Clovis, Bellarmine and St. Francis, and are looking to defend their 2019 CCS title.

“I love this team,” Owen Taylor said. “The senior chemistry is great.”

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