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The mission has been clear from day one for the JSerra boys water polo team: CIF-SS Open Division championship or bust.
The Lions have turned that focus into an undefeated regular season, and with the first step of the Open Division playoffs on Thursday, Nov. 2, top-seeded JSerra didn’t skip a beat.
JSerra never trailed in a physical match against Trinity League rival Mater Dei and got a stellar performance in the cage from sophomore keeper Jonas Ransford, as the Lions won their first-round match, 8-4, at JSerra Catholic High School.
“We could’ve executed a lot better tonight,” JSerra head coach Brett Ormsby said, “but we’re obviously pleased to move on to the next round and clean up some things and have a contest that challenges us in this way.”
JSerra (25-0) advances to the CIF-SS Open Division semifinals and will host Corona del Mar on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The Open Division Final is scheduled for Nov. 11 at Mt. San Antonio College.
JSerra fell in the Open Division title game last season to Newport Harbor, but the Lions beat the Sailors for the SoCal Regional title a week later.
The Lions were without their superstar senior Ryder Dodd in the first round, as Dodd is currently with the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Pan American Games in Chile. Dodd, who will be back with JSerra for the CIF-SS semifinals, scored eight goals in a 28-2 win over the host country on Thursday to push Team USA into the PanAm semifinals.
“The cool thing about that (first-round victory) is that’s without our biggest leader here,” Ormsby said. “Ryder’s coming back for the next round, and he’ll jump in next to Will (Schneider) and a senior group that’s aware this is their last high school water polo experience, which bodes well for us.”
On Thursday, JSerra set the tone off the opening sprint in the first quarter.
Maddox Arlett scored two goals on two first-quarter snipes sandwiched around a five-meter penalty save by Ransford, his first of 10 saves in the match.
“He played unbelievable,” Ormsby said of Ransford. “That’s a great sign for us to see him playing like that. He made some really phenomenal saves.”
James Mulvey scored on the counterattack for JSerra to end the opening frame with a 3-1 lead.
JSerra scored two mirror-image goals in the second quarter on feeds from Bode Brinkema to Taylor Bell, as the Lions held a 5-1 advantage at halftime.
JSerra led 8-2 after three quarters with goals from Gavin Conant, Tas Palcza and Colt Bradley. The Lions showcased quick passing on Conant and Bradley’s goals with primary assists from Palcza, and Palcza scored on a breakaway.
Mater Dei scrapped back with two man-up goals in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as the Lions held on for the win, 8-4.