Leave the door open by playing like gentlemen, and your opponent is going to walk through it.
That’s the lesson Davis High water polo coach Tracy Stapleton has been trying to instill in his boys, and certainly it was relevant in their battle with St. Mary’s on Thursday.
Though the Blue Devils ended up narrowly defeating the Rams, 11-10, at Arroyo Pool, Stapleton read deeper into it:
“We had them 6-1 at the end of the first quarter, so that means from then on they actually beat us, 9-5. They had us completely dominated for most of the match.”
As he mentioned, DHS (12-4, 4-0 Delta Valley Conference) was leading convincingly in the first quarter. That advantage came courtesy of the combined onslaught of Devils Garrett Fisk, Conrad McCarthy and Graham Fullerton.
In addition to the six goals Davis scored at the beginning of the game, it had four more attempts that flew just shy of the visitors’ net.
But the Rams came charging back in the next period, scoring three times before Fisk’s next successful goal of the night.
That flurry meant the Blue Devils faced a more precarious score of 8-4 as the teams broke for halftime.
And the situation only worsened as they re-entered the pool for the third quarter, as another two shots slipped through the DHS defense within the first two minutes.
Much of that period had St. Mary’s in control, as evidenced by the Rams’ 6-2 advantage in shot attempts.
The final quarter had the teams trading goals — and St. Mary’s even had a chance to tie with 14 seconds left — but the Devils held on 11-10. Fisk, who earned a hat trick, and Cameron Wright made most of the offensive plays near the game’s end.
After the match, a visibly disappointed Stapleton traced the problems that led DHS to the nail-biting conclusion, instead of the convincing win he hoped for:
“They need to exert more effort on defense. Too many of them wait until they’re in a crisis position before they start playing defense, not realizing that by just moving earlier they wouldn’t have to struggle in the first place.
“If we continue to do that, we’re going to have a really short postseason. Our defense has to be completely rock-solid, and it simply wasn’t (Thursday).”
The Blue Devils are back in the pool this weekend at Sacramento’s Capital Classic.
“We’re going to be eaten for dinner by the teams we’ll be playing if we don’t correct these problems,” Stapleton said. “We have eight seniors on our team. And this is it; it’s now or never for them.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett.