Redwood advance to NorCal title game

The Redwood High boys water polo team should have felt comfortable playing with the lead almost the entire game, but the Giants never eased up on the gas until the final whistle in Thursday’s 18-8 victory over visiting Arroyo Grande in the CIF NorCal Division II semifinal .

The victory launches Redwood into the NorCal title game for the first time in program history. The No. 1 Giants (25-6) are scheduled to host No. 7 Jesuit (17-14) on Saturday at 5 pm Jesuit was a 14-13 upset winner over No. 3 Buchanan on Thursday.

“This win was more about the history of the program. We’ve never been to the NorCal championships, ”said Redwood senior co-captain Marco Asiano, who scored four goals against the Eagles. “It was really important that we capitalize on opportunities. Now we have to bring this momentum to the next game. ”

While Asiano and his teammates are trying not to fall into the trap of feeling overwhelmed on the title stage, they recognize the significance of the opportunity.

“The coach (Rudy Kardos) really wants us to focus on just the fact that this is such a great opportunity,” Asiano said. “He talked about it before. He just wants us to enjoy the moment and really take advantage of the opportunity. He really pushes a positive message, and really wants us to be selfless, because we win as a team, not as individual players. ”

Kardos knows how important this season is for his players, even if they don’t realize it yet.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Kardos said as he took it all in. “I don’t think they’ll recognize the impact of this season until, maybe five or 10 years from now. This is a special team. In the past, we’ve had great teams, but one thing can happen – an injury, or an epidemic – and the wheels can fall on the truck. “

Kardos, a former star youth player in the former Czechoslovakia, recalled playing for his national team in the European Super Cup.

“I was so nervous, because I was 18 years old. I was called for three penalties and out of the game. So I never forgot that, but it’s one of those things that you learn from, ”Kardos said. “It’s amazing how collected these guys are at this stage. They don’t let the pressure get to them. “

Redwood took a 2-1 lead on Asiano’s first goal in the opening period, and never trailed. Arroyo Grande pounded the ball at the net, but Redwood’s Charlie Mills was nearly unbeatable, with a little help from the goalposts.

The Giants held a 9-4 lead by halftime, but they didn’t want to let the Eagles back into the game. Redwood, which scored the final three goals of the first half, outscored Arroyo Grande 3-1 to open the second half and take a 12-5 lead. That was still not enough to satisfy the Giants.

A five-goal stretch – with two scores by Asiano and one each from Dylan Zorn, Max Matthews and Billy Zech – that overlapped the third and fourth periods, gave Redwood a 17-6 lead with 4:15 left to play. Finally, the Giants felt they had the victory safely in the grasp.

Zech scored a game-high seven goals, while Matthews finished with three and Travis Hughes added two. Preston Page and Ryan Wilson netted one goal each.

Asiano notched a bit of personal history in the game with his 100th goal.

“I think this game was really all about selflessness,” Asiano said. “There wasn’t just one person scoring all the goals. We had a very good spread across the board, and especially we have (Zech), who believes that he’s really strong and we have to use his strength in the offense. “

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