The Miami Country Day boys’ and girls’ water polo teams won District 14 in back-to-back, one-goal victories that sent coach Alain Guillen diving into the pool to celebrate with his players each time Wednesday at MAST Academy.
First the Spartan girls beat MAST Academy 9-8 in overtime to clinch their fifth consecutive district title, and the boys bested Hialeah 13-12 with a fourth-quarter comeback.
Both teams have tall tasks ahead of them in the state play-in round as the girls play four-time defending state champion Ransom Everglades, and the boys will face 25-1 Belen.
• Girls’ District 14 final — Miami Country Day 9, MAST 8 (OT): Guillen’s first dive into the pool was of the more spontaneous variety.
When Sidney Thomas rifled a long shot on goal from mid-pool at the 1:14 mark in overtime, he wasn’t expecting it to find net, but when it did, and it meant a sudden-death win, he couldn’t help but let out his exhilaration.
“I was so excited,” said Guillen, clothes soaked and dripping onto the pool deck. “I went on my own. I threw myself into the pool. I didn’t think [the shot] was going to go in, and when it did, it was such a surprise I jumped in the pool.”
While Thomas’ lone goal couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, it was Nicole Halpryn’s five goals in regulation that led the Spartans.
Country Day goalkeeper Mackenzie Bolton had an exceptional performance, not only in net with 21 saves, but also offensively. She scored two long-distance goals in the first quarter to help the Spartans build an early lead.
Country Day led by as many as four but ultimately allowed MAST to come back and tie it.
Down 8-6 with under three minutes to go, MAST scored twice to force overtime. Krystal Novaton scored the game-tying goal with 1:02 remaining in regulation.
• Boys’ District 14 final — Miami Country Day 13, Hialeah 12: The Country Day boys came back from down 12-10 to score three unanswered goals in the fourth quarter.
Senior Talal Bazzi, who finished with four goals, scored the game-winner with 1:25 to play on a fast break and assist from Giovanni Cragnott. The tying goal was scored about 30 seconds earlier by Grant Kushner, who totaled five goals.
The Thoroughbreds had their final possession with eight seconds left, but MCD goalkeeper Victor Cohen made an acrobatic save on a high lob from Hialeah’s Luis Kalil at the buzzer.
“The reason why we won, in my opinion, was because we were better conditioned than they were,” Guillen said. “The boys could’ve done better. They missed a lot of shots that they should’ve scored, but even like that, we won the game.”
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• Boys’ District 15 final — Belen 13, Ransom 10: Belen took the district title from Ransom in a dominant defensive effort.
The Wolverines led 10-2 entering the fourth quarter, but the Raiders were able to score eight goals against the Belen bench.
“While the starters were in the game, the defense was phenomenal,” said Belen coach Jimmy Aguilera, who has won three national water polo titles on the Cuban national team.
Herzen Cortes scored five goals, and Santiago Nunez finished with four for Belen. Goalkeeper Ryan Guzo had 10 saves.