It may have looked like the Davis High boys water polo team aced its fourth test of the 2013 season in a 14-4 win over Oak Ridge on Tuesday at Arroyo Pool.
But after the victory, which put the Blue Devils at 4-0 on the season, DHS head coach Tracy Stapleton’s report card read something different.
“We came out very lethargic, just going through the motions,” Stapleton said. “We have too much experience for that to be tolerated. Quite honestly, if there’s such thing as an ugly win, that’s what it was.”
Certainly, there was a difference between the Devils in the first half and the second on the scoresheet. Only four of the Davis tallies were in the early portion of the game, whereas all of the Trojans’ goals came before intermission, which came with the teams tied at 4-4.
In that opening half, the local offense was truncated by a stepped-up defense from Oak Ridge. When they were on attack, the Blue Devils had trouble finding an open comrade to pass to, and often launched it too far to reasonably score.
But as soon as five minutes into the third quarter, DHS senior Garrett Fisk and freshman Cameron Wright were pairing for enough goals to double the Devil lead to 8-4.
“What the players need to know is that you can’t just turn that effort switch on and off,” Stapleton said. “They’re thinking that they can do that. Unfortunately, the only thing that ultimately motivates people in that mindset is to lose a big game.
“It wasn’t just a matter of tactical mistakes; that’s going to happen this early in the season. I’m talking about just effort, stuff like calling a teammate’s name to communicate a pass.”
The transition from defense to offense and awareness in the middle of the pool were areas that Stapleton specifically mentioned as exposed problems.
The mistakes didn’t seem to impact Davis’ ability to keep the Trojans at bay. Senior Zac Anderson made a couple of essential blocks on the defense to prevent Oak Ridge from closing the gap.
Some of the reserves on the DHS roster also had a chance to shine in the contest as freshman Nick Masson and senior Valente Dolcini played a significant portion of the game and performed well.
Senior Sam Burke and junior Brad Nicholson also capitalized on their time in the pool, scoring late goals to increase the final margin.
“Overall, this was a step backwards from our other games,” Stapleton said. “And we have a big tournament this weekend in San Diego. They’re not going to be able to get away with the same stuff there.”
The stiff competition Stapleton is anticipating will come at the America’s Finest City tournament. It’s a 32-team invitational, featuring mostly respected Southern California squads. DHS is one of four teams in the bracket that hail from Northern California.
“It’s a lot of really, really good teams,” Stapleton said. “My main goal is just to improve on being more aware of where we are spatially in the pool.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett. View galleries and purchase prints of Blue Devil sports photos at http://davisenterprise.zenfolio.com