Cathedral water polo team wins SoCal regional D-II title, topping Vista

Cathedral Catholic senior Rick Lundh holds the Southern California Regional Division II boys water polo title plaque.
Surrounded by teammates, Cathedral Catholic senior Rick Lundh holds the Southern California Regional Division II boys water polo title plaque.
(Glae Thien / For the U-T)

Cathedral Catholic wins the Southern California Regional Division II championship despite having a losing record against top-flight competition


Although Cathedral Catholic didn’t finish the boys water polo season with a winning record, the Dons did win the Southern California Regional Division II championship.

Senior Rick Lundh and junior Ben Mirisch each scored three goals on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Cathedral as the top-seeded Dons beat Vista 10-7 in a final matching teams that lost in the San Diego Section Open Division semifinals.

“There was a lot of talk around the section that we had a losing record and we weren’t that good,” said Lundh, a fourth-year varsity member. “We were super motivated to prove everyone wrong.”

Cathedral (16-17) persevered over a rugged schedule that included three elite tournaments and city Western League play that involved Open Division champion Bishop’s and runner-up La Jolla.

In addition, there were other obstacles for the Dons, who had eight seniors graduate from last season’s squad that won the section Open Division crown.

“We’ve had a ton of hardships this season, like broken bones, illnesses and concussions,” said Lundh, also the section’s reigning Division II 100-yard breaststroke champion in swimming. “So this (title) means everything. This is a great group of guys, every single guy.”

Cathedral jumped to a 3-0 lead with 2:05 left in the second quarter even though goalie Trent DeLeeuw made six of his nine saves during that span for the No. 2 Panthers (21-12).

“I was super hyped for this,” Mirisch said. “We like to start strong and just keep motivating each other with positive words throughout.”

The Dons, under coach Tommy Corcoran, built a 5-1 halftime lead in their first regional final.

Vista later closed within two goals on three occasions, including 8-6 to end the third quarter. But Mirisch and Lundh each recorded a goal to restore a four-goal edge for the Dons with 4:20 left.

Senior Bo Clemens added five assists for Cathedral. In goal, there were six saves by junior Victor Bonhomme, who this season succeeded Jack Hightower, now at the Naval Academy.

Senior Collin O’Neill had to three goals to pace the Panthers, who were seeking to add to regional Division II crowns won in 2018 and 2019. Remaining from that last title team was senior Mason Merritt, who scored their first goal this time with 1:15 before halftime.

DeLeeuw, the all-time saves leader for Vista, also earned Coastal League Player of the Year honors for the second time this season.

With the victory, Mirisch also looked forward to next season and the bid for a second section Open Division in three years.

“This is super good for us and the school,’’ Mirisch said. “We want to continue the legacy.’’

Lundh also had a team-high three goals in a 12-7 semifinal victory over San Clemente.

Division III

Palisades 10, Rancho Bernardo 9 (OT): Dylan DeMatteo spearheaded Rancho Bernardo with three goals and nine steals, but the second-seeded Broncos (25-8) fell in overtime.

No. 1 Palisades (27-4) scored the last regulation goal to pull even 6-6 and force the two required overtime periods.

Dylan Jefferies had 14 saves for Rancho Bernardo, which made its first regional tourney appearance.

Thien is a freelance writer.