Austin Barton taking on the Golden West College Rustlers during a Cuesta water polo match.
Photo courtesy of Ritchie Bermudez / Cuesta Athletics
By Michael Baird
Cuesta’s men’s water polo heads into the Golden West Tournament in Huntington Beach riding a five game win streak.
John Marsh, head coach of the water polo team was impressed with the way his top players were performing heading into the tournament.
Austin Barton, Brad Dennis and Mitch Lunker lead the team in scoring heading into the tournament.
“1st quarter [we] jumped out early with a lead,” Dennis said. “We put the fear of God in their hearts.”
The Cougars opened the tournament with a matchup against American River College, where the Cougars dominated with a 14-2 victory over the Beavers.
“I made sure the team was focused going into the game,” Dennis added. “Josh Jewell helped lead the defense that competed well.”
Lunker accounted for 9 of the 14 points scored against the Beavers, Cole Silva and Dylan Hughes scored as well.
The Cougar’s win streak came to an end in a 10-12 point loss against Long Beach City College, where Cuesta fell to 1-1 in the tournament.
“We came out and played aggressively in the first half.” Jewell said. Long Beach was number 2 ranked in state.
Foul troubled hindered the offensive performance for the Cougars in the second half, and the offense struggled to get momentum going in the fourth quarter, leading to a Cougars loss according to Jewell.
Jewell believes that better possessions and using their advantages in size and strength could have led to a win over the Vikings.
The Cougars bounced back the next day with a important stay alive win against San Joaquin Delta 11-8 to advance in the tournament.
The Cougars were lead by a team standout, Dennis, who scored four goals for the Cougars.
Cuesta suffered a disappointing loss in a close game against West Valley College that knocked them out of the tournament.
“Pretty successful overall, should have finished off West Valley,” Dennis said. “This is the best we’ve played all year.”
Cuesta lost 10-11 to the Vikings despite strong efforts by Lunker and Barton, both of whom scored three goals.
According to Dennis this tournament helped prepare the Cougars with a some competitive competition.
“High intensity, speed and good competition will help the men’s water polo team prepare for the playoffs,” Dennis said.
The Cougars look to bounce back from an unexpected early exit from the Golden West tournament and have better success in playoffs this year.
The Cougars playoff run last year included the team making the regional semi-final game, one win away from the CCCAA state championship.