Boys’ Water Polo Season Ends With Last-Second Loss to Bonita in CIF Quarterfinals


Kasia Alexander

Senior Matthew Grudichak attacks the Bonita High School goal at the CIF playoff varsity water polo game on Nov 6. The Wildcats’ season ended on a last second goal by the visiting Bearcats.

With a literal second to spare, boys’ varsity water polo’s CIF Division 3 playoff journey came to a suspenseful end on Nov. 6 when visiting Bonita High School, the Bearcats broke a 12-12 tie at the buzzer, capturing a tense quarter finals win.

In the final seconds of the game, and deadlocked in a 12-12 tie, Bonita, with the final possession, set up in the front court and passed the ball around seeking an opportunity to shoot on Wildcat goalie Phil McWade, who had already stopped eight shots during the game. In the final second, Bonita lobbed the ball towards the goal, just over McWade’s outstretched hands. 

“We were in disbelief,” David Loyarte, senior, said of the season-ending result against the same Bonita squad the Wildcats had already handily beaten, 20-11, in La Verne on Sept. 3

The Wildcats didn’t go down without a fight. “The main thing going through my head was that we needed to score more goals; we cannot lose this team because we’ve worked so hard for so long,” Loyarte said. “We were playing our hearts out [but] I guess it just wasn’t enough.”

The tension was palpable poolside, from a full house of cheering spectators to the Wildcats’ bench. “I could tell that everybody was extremely intense; the guys on the bench were just as nervous as we were. We all wanted it really badly,” Loyarte said.

“The most difficult part about the game was keeping composure and keeping positive,” Matthew Grudichak, senior, said. “Every time someone would score we would react instead of just accepting it.”

On the offensive end for the Wildcats, Grudichak led the way with four goals; Tyler Peterson, junior, scored three; and contributing two goals each were seniors Daniel Franks and Lee Bullock. Loyarte also contributed a goal.

Although water polo’s season did not end on the note they anticipated — with a section championship banner — Jackson Pearson, junior, acknowledged that although it was “kind of bittersweet,” the team’s 17-5 record, North Hills league championship, and playoff run were “a good send-off for all of [the] seniors.”