The energetic presence emanating from fans, players and coaches alike at Tuesday’s boys varsity water polo game spoke volumes of the time-honored rivalry between the combating Mountain View and Los Altos High Schools. Each team’s record only lent to the friction between the two. Mountain View, entering the game undefeated with a flawless record of 8-0 in league faced off against the potent 7-1 record of the ever-dangerous Los Altos squad. The stands were packed and roaring with witty encouragement and vocal support long before the first whistle ever blew. Senior Matty Munoz, Sixth Man Club president, rallied a bleacher section packed with siblings, parents, friends, fellow students and supporters. The passionate fans were almost as hungry for this victory as the players themselves.
“The crowd was amazing. [They] really helped us and it really came out in the last quarter,” Coach Gabor Sarusi said after the game.
The game began in a flurry of whistles and bodies hurtling towards the center of the pool seeking possession of the ball. Immediately, Mountain View’s valiant effort was rewarded as they reached it first and began their initial offensive. No more than 3 minutes after the game began, Mountain View had taken several shots amidst a heavy offensive push and drew first blood by securing the ball in the net behind the Los Altos goalie.
After the game, Sarusi commented on this energy which emerged straight out of the gate and was carried throughout the game, “intensity, yes. They wanted to win, yes.”
Los Altos immediately countered with both a goal and vehement offensive of their own. As the opposing players began a heated series of surges on the goal, Mountain View responded by banding together to play near impeccable defense. A notable contributor to the game for the home team was Michael Magee, who managed to net a ball, rally his teammates, and an play all-around solid game.
“As a team, the defense stepped up, we stopped their big shooters, the big shooters I think had, like four of their goals, so that’s great. It’s all about team defense,” senior Russell Blockhus said, who scored 4 of Mountain View’s 10 goals.
Both teams fought tooth and claw, trading shot for shot and point for point, each exemplifying outstanding athletic performance at the peak of the varsity level. The pure competitive lust to emerge victorious was a constant presence hanging over the brightly-lit pool wrought with coordinated commotion. Neither team was ever ahead of the other by more than three points, as spectacular plays on both defense and offense were witnessed. The game was tied at 4-4 at the halfway point, and Mountain View charged out of the gate for the second half with renewed vigor. The effort was one comprised of an entire team, not a group of individuals. Even the players not in the pool called encouragement, and waited hungrily for their chance to be subbed in.
“You know, that’s what it comes out for in really close games, it always comes down to the seventh, eighth, ninth guy who can step up and, and bring the intensity from the bench,” Coach Sarusi explained.
Although the ultimate outcome of the game was victorious for the Spartans, the team faced setbacks, the most prominent being the ejection of senior Michael Magee for starting forward too early on a penalty shot.
“You know, it’s all mental…my biggest policy is just handle adversity when it comes, just deal with it,” Sarusi said.
The final moments of the game were absolutely electrifying. Both teams summoned a second wind of motivation, fighting through pain and fatigue to emerge the victor. With the score tied in the final three minutes, Blockhus landed a miracle shot from nearly halfway across the pool which caused the stands to explode.
With nearly a minute to play, Mountain View extended their lead to two and the victory felt imminent. It was then that a Los Altos player spun his body in a windmill-like rotation while holding the ball, and suddenly flung it without seeming to understand where exactly it might fly. From the center of the pool the ball was no more than a blur as it skimmed across the surface of the water and straight into the goal. Mountain View 10, Los Altos 9. And that was the game.
Blockhus and Sarusi gave almost identical answers when asked if they had expected the victory–an immediate “yes,” lacking any trace of doubt. Both had the utmost trust and respect for the members of that team, and that faith carried them to their place on top and the continuation of their perfect league record of 9-0.