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The Burlingame B

The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

The Burlingame B

The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

The Burlingame B

Boys’ water polo falls to Hillsdale in close CCS qualifying match

Jeannine Chiang
Sophomore Oliver Canniffe prepares to pass the ball to an open teammate in an attempt to create a scoring opportunity against Capuchino High School on Monday, Oct. 23.

“Almost” is the most heartbreaking word in the English language, yet the only proper term to express boys’ water polo’s final game against Hillsdale High School on Wednesday, Oct. 25. There was almost enough momentum. There was almost enough drive on offense. The boys almost advanced to their next match. The boys almost, just almost, secured a victory.

But it wasn’t meant to be. In the team’s qualifying round for the Central Coast Section (CCS) tournament against the Knights, Burlingame fell 13-14 — a loss too close to feel true.

“We should have won that,” sophomore Matthew Derossett said.

Despite the boys’ dominant season, they were facing better competition on Wednesday than they’d faced in weeks, competing against a Hillsdale squad from the higher Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division.

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“Coming from the Ocean Division, to pull up [with] a roster full of freshmen and sophomores, I knew it would be challenging for us already,” sophomore Adrian Gong said.

Sophomore Oliver Canniffe, however, acknowledged that an underdog mindset may have contributed to the loss.

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“I know [some players] went into the game thinking that we were going to lose by a lot… mindset is important. When we scored the first goal of the game, that really helped change a lot of people’s minds and attitudes. If you think you’re going to lose, you’re going to play the way you’re thinking.”

— Oliver Canniffe

At the start of the game, there were few signs that the Panthers lacked confidence. Gong won the opening sprint, helping Burlingame gain early possession of the ball. With a swift pass to Canniffe, the Panthers scored the first goal of the game, injecting faith and confidence into the squad.

But it was sophomore Alex Bozinovic who fueled the Panthers offensively, exerting his dominance in the contest and scoring six goals in the first half. 

“[Alex] played phenomenally. It’s the best game he’s ever played. He also had a bunch of blocks right in front of the cage from outside shots. It was great,” Canniffe said.

The turning point of the game was in the third quarter when Bozinovic and Canniffe both got ejected after three continuous fouls. Without the two sophomores, the boys couldn’t hold their three-point lead.

“Towards the end of the game, we lost some hope and momentum [when] the two guys who have been playing great this game, both got ejected,” freshman Justin Chiang said.

Reflecting back on the moment, Gong wished he had made a positional change to keep Bozinovic in the game.

“Something I would have done differently is switch into a center defender position for Alex because he had two ejections at the time, and then later came to a third [which] led him to be kicked out. I [wish I had] stepped into that role so that way, he could have stayed in the game,” Gong said.

Shortly after Bozinovic, Canniffe was also ejected. As an experienced club player who’s never been kicked out, he was upset and surprised.

“It was just an unfortunate occurrence because I think we would have kept our lead and won the game if we got to stay in,” Canniffe said.

While offensive weapons Bozinovic and Canniffe couldn’t play the rest of the game, junior goalie Bobby Kendall played a crucial role defensively, with many big saves that kept the score close.

But Kendall couldn’t do everything, especially when facing the Knight’s star attacker Josiah Yeager, who is ranked first nationally, scoring a total of 151 goals, and 207 points thus far in the season. Although Burlingame planned to double-team Yeager to shut him down offensively, he still managed 10 goals during the matchup. 

Chiang considered the match an excellent learning opportunity due to playing against a top athlete and also experiencing adversity against an older and more experienced squad.

“Although it can never feel too good after a loss, you can still take the good things away from the bad things,” Chiang said. “We’re playing the number three team in the overall CCS league. We came from the bottom of the Ocean Division to the top to the league title, and then now, we’re playing some team that is supposed to be a lot better than us. I think there’s actually a lot of good to be taken out of the game.”

Similarly to Chiang, Bozinovic and Canniffe viewed the match, regardless of the score, as a victory.

“I’m just super happy with the performance we had,” Canniffe said. 

Bozinovic agreed.

“Everyone contributed… working the ball to Justin [at the position] five to then Lucas down at the [position] one and then to Adrian at the [position] two [and then] to me at the [position] four. I think that was just a team effort,” Bozinovic added.

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  • Sophomore Alex Bozinovic pops the ball live after an opposing ejection from Capuchino on Monday, Oct. 23.

  • Freshman Lucas Carlson plays strong defense, pressing Capuchino to pass the ball.

  • Sophomore Matthew Derossett gets high out of the water to shot-block attempted goals from the Mustangs.

  • Freshman Lucas Carlson skips the ball to score a point for Burlingame.

Although the boys weren’t able to qualify for the CCS league playoffs this year, the team viewed their overall season performance as a success. Burlingame won the league title, placing first in the Ocean Division, and was promoted to play in the Bay Division next year.

Derossett emphasized the progression of the boys’ efforts and chemistry in the water throughout the season, as well as the support of their coaches.

“Coaches are our biggest motivators. They kept us focused on our goals to win the division, which we did,” Derossett said.

With a starting lineup completely structured around underclassmen, every single player is returning for the next reason — a rare scenario that should give the team an advantage over other schools.

“The game today gives us a confidence boost going into this next season. Since we have a young team and a lot of these other schools [are reliant on] seniors [who’ve graduated], I think we’re going to have an extraordinary chance back at it,” freshman Lucas Carlson said.

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Jeannine Chiang
Jeannine Chiang, Web Editor
Jeannine Chiang is a junior at Burlingame High School and a second-year journalism student. She is excited to continue journalism as the Web Editor this year. Chiang is involved with many clubs in the school and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and watching her favorite TV shows.
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