If the Mira Costa boys’ water polo team succeeds this season against the tough teams in Division I, they will know they did it against the best competition the Southern Section has to offer.

“Moving up to Division I was a major step up from Division II,” said Mira Costa goalkeeper Jere Ashby.

Mira Costa recently hosted Foothill, a highly ranked Division I team. It was close, but the Mustangs came up short 11-9.

“The team is young, but doing well,” said Mira Costa boys’ water polo head coach Jon Reichardt. “I thought the game Friday was well-played by both sides. I was happy with all the players that played for us.”

About 13 players saw some playing time during the game.

“Our loss wasn't too bad considering we lost a few important players from last year’s team and Foothill didn't,” Ashby said. “Over the past few months, we've really grown as a team. Foothill currently is one of the top teams in Division 1 and for us to come in last Friday and almost beat them really shows how we do have the potential to play at a high level.”

Foothill is ranked No. 6 in this week’s latest CIF-Southern Section poll.

Ashby, who finished with seven saves in the contest, said they learned a lot from the loss.

“It showed us what we needed to work on in order to beat these top-ranked teams in our division. I do believe as the season progresses and we learn from our mistakes from our past games, we will be able to play with and defeat these teams in our division.”

Offensively, Mira Costa was led by Christian Thornton’s four goals.

“I think the game was a step in the right direction and a tough loss is sometimes necessary to build,” Thornton said. “The fact that we now know we are competitive will ultimately help us become a better team.”

The only other player to score more than one goal for Mira Costa was Liam Cook with two goals.

“Division I is different from what we experienced last year, every game is a tough fight and this year has been a continuous fight to be the best that we can,” said Cook, a junior. “The team is definitely improving, we are now competing with the top teams in Division I and we will hopefully be moving up the rankings soon.”

Chris Agliozo, Clay Allen and Ethan Chalk also scored. Paul Matt played the second half in goal and had six saves.

Agliozo currently leads the team in scoring. Thornton, Garrett Weatherly and Lucas Brannan are the tri-captains for this season.

Currently, Harvard Westlake is the top team in Division I boys’ water polo followed by Mater Dei.

“It is an amazing opportunity to play against the best of the best in Division I,” Brannan said. “It is going to be a very challenging season but in our game against Foothill, we kept it close.”

Only time will tell how much growth the team goes through this year and if it is enough. Mira Costa typically earns a CIF playoff spot in Division II. 

“Being in Division I is exciting but challenging,” Thornton said. “We all understand the significance of our position and attack our new challenge from a place of gratitude. We go into every game with the expectation that we will win but are content with fighting hard.”

Mira Costa next plays Redondo Union on the road Thursday, Oct. 6, at 3 p.m.

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