By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s boys water polo team ended its season Nov. 10 with an 9-8 loss to Mt. Carmel in the CIF Division II quarterfinals.
“We were ahead most of the game,” said coach Donnie Williams.
The game was played at La Jolla High School’s Coggan Pool. Ramona earned the fourth seed in the Division II playoffs, which gave the Bulldogs a first-round bye.
“I was happy with fourth,” Williams said. “That’s where we should have been seeded.”
Mt. Carmel received the fifth seed. The Bulldogs and Sundevils had played earlier this year in a Sept. 21 non-league game at Mt. Carmel; in that game the 8-7 score was in Ramona’s favor.
The Bulldogs scored the first two goals in the playoff match, although Mt. Carmel scored twice to tie the game. Ramona had the final first-quarter score for a 3-2 lead after that period. Ramona also held a two-goal lead just before halftime, although a late second-period Mt. Carmel goal narrowed the halftime score to 6-5.
The game was tied after three periods.
“We struggled in the third quarter a little bit offensively,” Williams said.
Matteo Franchello, an Italian exchange student playing in what would be his final Ramona High School game, missed a five-meter penalty shot during the third period. Franchello felt that the referee blew his whistle to start the shot early.
“After that it kind of affected his game a little bit,” said Williams.
Mt. Carmel had an 8-7 lead late in the fourth quarter, but Williams called time out with 40 seconds left.
“We ran our play,” Williams said.
That play resulted in a game-tying goal with 20 seconds remaining, but the Sundevils called time out and scored the winning goal. “They made a good play,” said Williams.
“The guys played hard all game long,” Williams said of his team. “I thought we did a good job defensively.”
The playoff loss left Ramona with a final 19-10 overall season record, including a 4-1 Valley League statistic which was worth second place in the final league standings.
In addition to Franchello, the playoff match was also the final Ramona High game for seniors Isaac Gross and Ian Jacoway.
“We’re still a fairly young team,” Williams said. “Most of our players are going to be back.”