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Vikings roust Rustlers in championship rematch

Sat Sep 24, 2022
Ante Buzov led WVC with a season-high nine goals against Golden West

Ante Buzov led WVC with a season-high nine goals against Golden West

Saturday's highley anticipated 2021 state championship rematch between two CCCAA men's water polo powerhouses lived up to its billing, and then some. In front of a packed house at the Cuesta College Central Coast Invitational, state #2 West Valley knocked off #1 Golden West in a 15-12 slugfest featuring multiple lead changes, spirited comebacks and stellar performances from a number of the CCCAA's preeminent players.

WVC coach Willo Rodriguez said, "It was like watching a D1 game, extremely physical, without a doubt the best game of the year so far." Appropriately, the game started with a West Valley penalty just after the ball dropped that the Rustlers converted for a 1-0 lead. That was, figuratively and literally, just the beginning.

After Golden West's 2021 All-American, Felipe Ferreira, converted the game-opening penalty shot, West Valley's Ante Buzov almost single-handedly took over the contest. Buzov made it 1-1 at 6:09 and then, with Ferreira being whistled for back-to-back ejections, fired in a pair of powerplay goals for a 3-1 Viking lead at 4:56. Augi Macchi's goal at 3:25 brought the Rustlers to within 3-2, but Carlos Zayola closed out the quarter with goals at 1:12 and :05  for a 5-2 WVC advantage after one.

Buzov gave WVC a 6-2 lead at the 5:37 mark, but a goal from Nico Dangelo, and two from Chase Nearn made it 6-5 with 2:43 remaining in the half. Togan Ozbek scored at 2:24 to give the Vikings a 7-5 lead, but Ferreira's goal at 1:36 made it 7-6, WVC, at intermission. The stage was set for an epic second half.

The Rustlers grabbed an 8-7 lead early in the third on a pair of Eamon Hennessey scores. Buzov evened it up with a goal at 5:02, touching off a run of four straight Viking goals - one from Zayola, one from Mario Almarza and another from Buzov - and, suddenly, the Vikings were up 11-8. Golden West's Itay Roth closed out the third with a score at :15 and it was 11-9 heading to the final stanza.

Ferreira's third goal of the game brought the Rustlers to within 11-10 with 6:40 left. Buzov then took over, lighting up the scoreboard with a trio of goals for a 14-10 WVC lead with 3:04 remaining. Golden West rallied on an Eduard Danilov powerplay goal at 2:37 and a Macchi score at 1:56 that left WVC up 14-12. A Viking penalty with :58 gave the Rustlers a chance to get even closer with plenty of time left, but WVC keeper Kai Seed stopped the shot. West Valley's Lucas Romaguera put it away on the ensuing possession with a goal with :30 left.

Buzov finished with nine goals, the most for a Viking since current UC Davis player Ben Fleming had seven against Golden West in 2019. Zayola had three goals on four shots, while Ozbek and Almarza each handed out three assists. Seed recorded 15 saves to improve to 8-1 (8-0 against two-year competition) in 2022.

"Golden West is a formidable opponent," Rodriguez said. "They are well-coached and versatile in their play. The game was certainly a battle of giants. Fortunately for us, our defense and discipline made the difference in the end."

The Vikings (12-1) open Coast Conference play Wednesday (9/28) with a 3:00pm tilt against Ohlone (3-1).