It was a strange day at the Carlmont pool as the Scots hosted Burlingame in a Bay Division boys’ water polo match Thursday.
On the one side, Carlmont was playing its season opener, while Burlingame was without its head coach, who had work commitments.
That left the Burlingame girls’ coach in charge of the Panthers, who did not know all the players’ names, let alone what kind of game they like to play.
And because head coach Austin Carr also serves as the boys’ JV coach, a couple of the varsity players spent their pre-game warmup time helping coach.
So when one takes the hype of the first match of the year for the Scots, coupled with the challenges facing the Panthers, it’s no wonder Carlmont jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one period of play.
But Burlingame settled down, got its transition game going and pulled away from Carlmont over the final three quarters to post a 12-7 victory.
“It was kind of crazy,” said Burlingame co-captain Lucca Aliaga, who led the Panthers with four goals and four assists. “Our coach wasn’t here today, so we had some varsity players helping coach JV. … When we settled down, we found our groove.”
It took seven minutes for Burlingame (1-1 PAL Bay) to finally settle down, and when it did, the Panthers found themselves trailing by three goals.
Carlmont didn’t get off to a flying start either, not recording their first shot more than two minutes into the match.
The Scots did benefit, however, from the fact their first shot turned into a goal by Denton Silfast, who took a pass on the right wing and beat Burlingame goaltender Davor Koprivcic.
It was the first of three goals on three shots for the Scots. A little over a minute later, on their second shot of the game, the Scots’ Zack Nathan took a long outlet pass from goaltender Luke Adams down the left wing and skipped a shot into the back of the net.
Thirty-five seconds later, Adams found Tyler Rachal down the right side and he used his rifle of an arm to bury his shot for a 3-0 lead.
Carlmont outshot Burlingame 7-5 in the opening period, with two of the Panthers’ shots hitting off the post.
“We started out real strong,” said Carlmont head coach Justine Hedlund. “[Rachal] has an absolute cannon for an arm. He’s been nursing a shoulder injury … and he’s still killing it.”
Rachal led the Scots with three goals.
Once the second period started, Burlingame seized control. It took less than a minute into the quarter for the Panthers to get on the scoreboard. Mason Rossi took an outlet pass from Koprivcic and from point-blank range, skipped a shot past Adams.
It was the first of three unanswered goals for Burlingame in the first 2:08 of the second. Aliaga fed James Lowdon on the left wing, with his goal to the short side cutting the Panthers’ deficit to 3-2.
It was tied less a minute later when Rossi fired home a shot from the point.
Carlmont slowed Burlingame momentarily when Patrick McDonough converted a goal in the hole set off a pass from Tyler Dartenell, but the Panthers responded with another three-goal outburst to take a 6-4 lead at halftime.
Carlmont closed to 6-5 less than a minute into the third period, but Burlingame pushed its lead to four, 9-5, by scoring the next three — with Aliaga scoring twice, sandwiched around a Sebastian Duong goal from the set.
“(With) Sebastian in the set, he gives us spacing on offense,” Aliaga said.
Carlmont made one last push to get back in the match, scoring the first two goals of the fourth period to close to 9-7 as Rachal rocketed two more into the back of the net.
The Scots, however, would get no closer as yet another trio of scores carried Burlingame to the finish line.
The Panthers really got in gear once Koprivcic finally got comfortable between the pipes. He was not his usual dominant self in that first quarter, allowing three goals on seven shots.
But he allowed only four more the rest of the way and finished with 11 saves for the match.
More importantly, Koprivcic’s pinpoint outlet passes enabled to the Panthers to get easy, early offense.
“Davor is the centerpiece of our team,” Aliaga said. “He’s our last line of defense and he’s our first option on offense. Without Davor, this team wouldn’t be complete.”
So does Koprivcic secretly want to be a field player?
“I’m just a goalie,” Koprivcic said. “Being down 3-nothing, we were just trying to get back in the game. Counter quickly and score quickly.”