HIGHLANDERS LOOK TO EXPERIENCE FOR EDGE.
The Cabrillo High water polo team, which defeated Simi Valley's Royal High School in tournament play earlier this season, is the top seed in the Southern Section Division IV playoffs.
However, Royal driver David Radka believes the Highlanders will have the edge as defending section champions when they play Cabrillo at 3:15 p.m. today in the Division IV final at UC Santa Barbara.
``We've been to the championship before and they haven't,'' Radka said. ``It's a lot different than playing in a semifinal. We know how to handle it - the emotion, the crowd intensity. We can hold up in the fourth quarter.''
With six returners from the 1995 championship team, the Highlanders proved that in their 14-9 semifinal victory over Santa Barbara on Saturday at Pepperdine University. The No. 2 seeds rallied from a 9-8 deficit in the final period with six unanswered goals.
``This year's team is a product of the championship team,'' said Royal coach Steve Snyder. ``I've said the character of the team has been suspect at times, but they had a lot of heart. In other years, we would have folded. It was awesome.''
Cabrillo (25-2) has been impressive in the playoffs as well, advancing to the final with a 24-7 quarterfinal victory over Buena and a 15-8 semifinal triumph against Agoura to reach its first title game since 1983.
Today's match against Cabrillo will be the fourth in three years against the Los Padres League champion. The Highlanders beat Cabrillo in the 1994 section quarterfinals 18-8 and edged the Conquistadores 6-5 in last year's San Luis Obispo tournament.
It was a 12-10 defeat to Cabrillo in the San Luis meet in October that helped Royal turn its season around. Royal (23-5) has won 12 matches in a row since the loss.
The Highlanders swept through Marmonte League play to win their 16th-consecutive league title. Included in the streak are nonleague victories over 1995 Division II finalist Marina and Pacific League champion Crescenta Valley.
``We were really frustrated and took (the loss) to heart,'' Radka said of the Cabrillo game. ``The loss was good. It made us play harder and work harder to make our practices more intense.''
Royal and Cabrillo were the top two teams in the preseason coaches' poll, but the Conquistadores have held the No. 1 spot since knocking off the Highlanders.
On Monday night, the Highlanders watched a videotape of the defeat to Cabrillo earlier this season. Senior 2-meter man Chris Richeson wasn't overwhelmed by the Conquistadores' performance.
``We played a good game but we didn't play very well,'' Richeson said. ``They are a balanced team but our six-on-five offensive has improved and our passing is a lot better.''
Richeson scored five goals despite picking up two fouls midway through the first half against Santa Barbara. He had five goals in less than three quarters in the Highlanders' 19-7 quarterfinal victory over Arroyo Grande. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound left-hander, who is being recruited by UCLA, USC, Stanford, Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara, leads the Highlanders with 135 goals on the season.
Goalkeeper Garrett Herzer and 2-meter defender Nate Ball, who scored three goals against Santa Barbara, have played well. Ball scored a pivotal goal in the fourth quarter after stripping a defender and going the length of the pool for a score.
``We were a little worried, it made us try harder,'' Ball said. ``At the beginning of the season our goal was to make it to the final. Rankings aren't important. Who wins the title is what really matters.''
Photo: Royal's Chris Richeson will be a key part of the Highlanders'
six-on-five attack in today's water polo division final against Cabrillo High.
Myung J. Chun/Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Nov 27, 1996|
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