Valhalla boys’ water polo to compete for CIF Championship

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By Mary York

Norsemen of eighth century Europe were known as fearsome conquerors, riding icy waves into the isles of Britain to pillage and plunder. With the same ferocity, the Norsemen of Valhalla High School commanded the choppy waters of the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex in La Jolla to fight for the right to compete in the CIF water polo championship.

By Mary York

Norsemen of eighth century Europe were known as fearsome conquerors, riding icy waves into the isles of Britain to pillage and plunder. With the same ferocity, the Norsemen of Valhalla High School commanded the choppy waters of the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex in La Jolla to fight for the right to compete in the CIF water polo championship.

The semi final match between Valhalla and the Fallbrook High School Warriors was a bloodbath. Valhalla lost to Fallbrook two weeks ago and seemed ready for a comeback. 

By the end of the first half, the Norsemen were up, 3-1, scoring two goals in the final minutes of the half.

Aggravated by the assault, Fallbrook’s Warriors started the second half with possession and a posse of cheering fans. Within seconds they had scored against the Norsemen who retaliated less than a minute later, driving the ball into enemy waters and bringing the score up, 4-2. Fifty seconds later, Fallbrook scored again only to have Valhalla clear two more goal shots before the period ended.

“Defense is a major part of our game and we drive very well,” said driver Reed Minter, one of the nine seniors on Valhalla’s roster.

Although their defense, headed by goalie Daniel Avalle, was fiercely on point for the entire game, Valhalla’s offense began to slag as the third quarter waned. Perimeter players missed easy shots. Fallbrook’s goalkeeper batted away clumsy attempts on the cage. Action stayed mostly in Valhalla’s territory for the duration of the game. 

Fallbrook slowly crept back onto the scoreboard, pirating away two more points for a close 6-5 as the second half drew to a close. 

Avalle blocked more than a dozen goal attempts during the game and the Norsemen’s defense relentlessly guarded their waters until the clock ran out and victory was secured.

With the championship close enough to touch, the Norsemen climbed out of the pool to dry off and celebrate while Vista and La Jolla High School teams jumped in to play their semi final match. La Jolla won, 7-6. 

Valhalla head coach Kent Houston said this squad is the most dedicated, most committed team he has ever coached.

“I started with this group three years ago,” said Houston. “They were so excited about playing water polo. They didn’t have a lot of knowledge but they were dedicated. They worked really hard – harder than any group I’ve had. They have given everything they’ve got for three years.”

Hard work has paid off, leaving the Norsemen stoked and a little surprised.

“Coming from the team we were in the summer all the way to now, I couldn’t be more grateful,” said Avalle. “It’s just astounding. It’s just a great win.”

But the team cannot pull in their sails yet. Houston said, even though they are the top seed, La Jolla and Vista are actually better teams. 

“Vista and La Jolla are two of the best programs in the county and we have to respect that,” he said. “But we play the game because somebody has to win.”

Their goal for finals, Houston said, is to survive.

Minter said the opposition does not intimidate him.

“It doesn’t matter our opponent,” he said. “We have to play our game no matter what.” 

The semi final win may definitely have served as a confidence boost. Minter said winning the match felt amazing.

“It was just an incredible experience to enjoy with my team,” he said. “We did it together and we’re going to do it again.” 

Valhalla will play La Jolla for the CIF championship title on Saturday, November 21.

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