Once the final buzzer sounded, Santa Ynez boys water polo players and coaches jumped into the Karl Bell Aquatics Center pool at Santa Maria High – signifying another Los Padres League title.
The Pirates never trailed and defeated Cabrillo 14-3 to clinch the LPL Finals championship and likely solidified a high seed and home game in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs – with seedings to be announced on Saturday.
It’s the 26th league title for the boys water polo program. Pirates head coach Jake Kalkowski was drenched in water after taking the dip with his team.
“It feels great. I’m super happy,” Kalkowski said after getting out of the pool. “It is fun watching them and seeing the hard work pay off.”
Santa Ynez (17-7 overall) started to fire at will at the net, leaping to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter. The Pirates relied on the arm and scoring instincts of Keller Haws, who fired two of his five goals during the first period.
Haws was not only ecstatic about celebrating in the pool afterwards with his team and coaches, but also enjoyed a celebratory brownie after the game.
“It feels awesome. Our whole year has been based on getting here and going farther,” Haws said.
Haws wasn’t the only effective scorer for the Pirates, so was Connor Hiatt – who finished with three goals. Allen Clarke and Nolan Morrison added goals for the LPL champs.
Additionally, the Pirates clamped down on one of the area’s best scorers in the pool in CHS’s Josh Rowe, who only managed one goal on the night. Garrett Stanton also had difficulty against SYHS.
“We just wanted to play our game – and our whole game is based off of defense,” Haws said. “That’s what we did.”
Haws’ fifth goal arrived in the early part of the fourth quarter. The Santa Ynez parents and students who drove to Santa Maria High not only erupted in loud cheers next to the pool, but pulled out their phones to record video and take photos of the Pirates’ latest crowning moment for the boys water polo program.
Kalkowski said Santa Ynez and Cabrillo have seen a competitive spike in games against one another.
“We were talking about that before our game today. Going all the way back to when we started our program in 1972 and with talking to our alumni, it’s always the game they’ve always looked forward,” Kalkowski said. “Both teams are very competitive. They both came out very hard.”
On the other side, Luke Benchek and Joseph Campos scored the other goals for the Conqs (14-10). CHS head coach Jeff Dacus decided not to lament on what could’ve been for the Conquistadores. Dacus reminded his team that there’s a new focus to shift toward now.
“We’re in CIF now. We have big games to play from here on out,” Dacus said.
He adds that CHS will likely be on the road for the D6 postseason, saying “We usually travel the first game. That’s the normal for us. We’ll see what happens.”