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HMB pulls away from Dons

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  • By Nathan Mollat Daily Journal Staff

While every coach wants to win every game his or her team plays, the end result early in the season is not necessarily the main objective.

Many coaches use the first few games of the season as an evaluation period and Wednesday was certainly a test for both the Half Moon Bay and Aragon boys’ water polo teams when they met in a non-league match in San Mateo.

The Cougars, which finished third in the Bay Division last season, outlasted the Dons, which finished second in the Ocean in 2016, recording a 17-10 victory to improve to 2-1 on the young season.

“It’s early in the season, so there’s going to be a lot of small mistakes,” said Half Moon Bay coach Justin Ferdinand. “It’s a learning experience for everyone and that’s what these early games are about.”

While HMB and Aragon are on different competitive levels, the teams do have one thing in common this season: both are tasked with replacing a bulk of the talent that led the teams to strong seasons in 2016.

“We graduated our entire starting lineup,” said Aragon coach Carly DeMarchena, whose team was playing its season opener. “We have a sophomore goalie [Jack Rayborn] who was playing in goal for his first game ever. … I had no idea what to expect today.”

One thing DeMarchena learned Wednesday was this year’s edition of the Dons is not one to quit, which would have been easy to do after Half Moon Bay jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead on its first three shots of the game. The Cougars led 4-1 before Aragon scored two goals late in the first period to close to 4-3 going into the second.

“That was huge [for our confidence],” DeMarchena said of the late-period rally. “We scored one of them on a 6-on-5, which was what we practiced on this morning.”

The Cougars pushed their lead back to two goals when Nate Feix scored his second of seven goals in the game, when he took a long, cross-pool pass to the far left post where he buried his opportunity.

But Peter Martin cut the lead to one again for the Dons when he chased down a long outlet pass from Rayborn and deposited it in the back of the net, cutting Aragon’s deficit to 5-4.

But HMB scored the next three goals, with an Andre Castro Santos goal sandwiched between a pair of Feix strikes for an 8-4 advantage as the Cougars led 8-5 at the half.

In the third quarter, HMB put some distance between itself and the Dons, outscoring them 5-3 in the period. The Cougars scored goals on their first four shots of the quarter, opening up a 12-5 lead. Sam Hughes opened the scoring in the second half, followed by a 5-meter penalty shot conversion from Liam Dempsey-Frank. Feix scored again as he posted up and took a pass from Nico Simrock, while Hughes rounded out the onslaught with his second goal of the period.

Aragon did not go away, however, as the Dons scored three of the final four goals of the period to trail 13-8 going into the final seven minutes of the match.

The Don scored a pair of quick goals to start the fourth against the Half Moon Bay second string, closing the gap to 13-10 after Joshua Vogel scored off Rayborn’s third assist of the match.

But Ferdinand reinserted his starters and they iced the game, scoring four unanswered to post the final margin of victory.

In addition to Feix’s seven goals, Dempsey-Frank added three goals and a pair of assists for Half Moon Bay, which had six players score and 10 players, overall, record a point. Castro Santos added three goals, while Simrock and Hughes scored two goals apiece. Goalie Max Barron finished with five saves.

“At times, the game ebbed and flowed and part of that was me trying to figure out personnel,” Ferdinand said. “Yes, you want to win and to build some flow. But at the same time, I have to get these guys into the game.”

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