For the last couple of years, head coach Alicia Chatigny and the Shadow Hills boys’ water polo team would have their fingers crossed, hoping to be let into the CIF playoffs.
But as a freelance team, the Knights never controlled their own destiny, even though they believed they were as good or better than most teams their size.
This year that wasn’t a problem. No longer freelance and a full member of the Desert Valley League, Shadow Hills, despite finishing fourth in the DVL, had been ranked in the top five of Division 7 all year. When the pairings came out, they were in. Finally a chance to prove to themselves and everyone else, that they belonged in the postseason.
“We’ve been chomping at the bit, waiting for a chance,” Chatigny said. “Every year we hoped there was an opening, and every year it was ‘Sorry.’ That’s just the way it was. I’m so proud of the guys and happy, that they’ve come together, but we kind of don’t think of it as a surprise. We’ve been playing close to this level for a few years.”
READ MORE: Saints’ water polo reaches semifinal
Three consecutive wins have put Shadow Hills in the Division 7 semifinals. The task gets extra tough for the Knights on Wednesday when they host Katella, the No. 1-ranked team in the division. The Knights, ranked No. 4, will play the Anaheim-based school at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Indio High School. Shadow Hills is the “home” team, but in the semifinals the game can not be played at your actual high school pool, so Indio stepped in to help the Knights be able to stay close to home.
Chatigny said she doesn’t know a lot about the opponent, but if her young team can continue to handle the pressure, she believes they can compete. And she does have the tandem of Dylan and Derek Van Buskirk to rely on. The siblings are the top scorer and goalkeeper, and are the main weapons on the Knights.
“We’re a young team in terms of experience,” she said. “With the exception of Dylan and Derek, no one on the team really played before two years ago. But they’ve all stepped up to the challenge.”
The Knights aren’t the only desert team in a No. 1 vs. No. 4 semifinal match Wednesday, but in this case the desert team is No. 1. The Xavier Prep Saints will play Alta Loma, a team out of Rancho Cucamonga. The game will be played at Los Osos High School.
Much like the Knights, the Saints had to start out in the wild-card round, and they have been cruising along with ease. The Saints have won their first three playoff games by a combined total of 51-15.
CIF PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
D-6: Xavier Prep at Alta Loma (at Los Osos HS), 5 p.m.
D-7: Katella at Shadow Hills (at Indio HS), 6 p.m.
D-12: Rancho Mirage at Hillcrest (at Norte Vista HS), 7:30 p.m.