Heritage boys water polo

Photo by Angelo Garcia Jr. 

The Heritage boys water polo team defeated Liberty 16-8 to win the league tournament on Oct. 30

Having defeated Liberty 16-8 during the regular season meeting between the two teams, Heritage’s boys water polo team entered the Bay Valley Athletic League Championship Game against the Lions on Saturday, Oct. 30 as the No. 1 seed and the favorites to beat the No. 2 seed Liberty.

That’s exactly what happened, though the Patriots were tested for a while.

After opening up a 4-1 lead in the second quarter, Heritage allowed three straight goals. The Patriots did get a goal before halftime to reclaim a slim lead, but it was anyone’s game. That changed quickly. Over the first four minutes and 10 seconds of the third quarter, that narrow 5-4 lead turned into a decisive 12-4 advantage. Heritage never looked back from there, going on to win 17-7, earning the first BVAL championship for the boys team in three years.

“We had a bit of a rough start, we weren’t playing to the potential that I know we have,” Heritage senior captain, Zane LaBute said. “We just came together, realized we really need this and want this. And we played our game. It was worth it.”

That attitude was shared by his coach, Jeff Russ, who said that the halftime message to his team was to “stay calm and play the way that we know how to play.”

Heritage got big performances from LaBute and his fellow senior captain, Patrick Aiello. LaBute finished the game with seven goals, an assist and four steals. Aiello, meanwhile, had four goals, four assists and added a pair of steals.

Junior Caleb Cayanan added three goals, all of which were significant. His first goal tied the game at 1-1 after the Lions drew first blood. His second goal came just before halftime. It allowed the Patriots to wrestle away some of the momentum that the Lions had after scoring three straight goals to tie the game. More importantly, it gave Heritage a lead that it would not surrender. Cayanan’s third goal was his team’s eighth of the day and stood as the game winner.

Senior Luke Pathe had two goals, an assist and three steals. Junior Isaiah Javier had a goal of his own, adding four assists and a team-leading five steals. Junior goalkeeper Braden Madden recorded six saves before he and most of the rest of the Patriots starters were pulled in the final minutes.

Like Liberty, Heritage had five different players score goals. Junior Caden Novello notched three goals. Sophomore Jacob Castillo, junior Riley Durrant and seniors Zachary Ulrich and Matthew Ramos had one goal each.

The news was not all bad for the Lions, though. Despite the loss, they earned an at-large bid into the North Coast Section playoffs. The No. 11 seeded Liberty team will take on No. 6 Berkeley in a 5 p.m. game on Thursday, Nov. 4. The game will be played at Acalanes High School in Lafayette. The winner will take on No. 3 Tamalpais in the second round.

The BVAL Championship win gave the Patriots an automatic bid into the NCS Tournament. Heritage is seeded No. 8 and will take on No. 9 College Park on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 6:15 p.m. That game will take place at the Carondelet Athletics Complex in Walnut Creek. The Falcons and Patriots met in the regular season, with College Park winning 12-6. No. 1 Redwood awaits the winner.

“The boys are really pumped up to do something in the playoffs,” Russ said. “We want to keep going.”