Sunset piles nine goals on Bevaers

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset junior Taylor Schmeck fires a shot towards the cage against Beaverton during the Apollos 13-3 win.

If Sunset head baseball coach Danny Adams needs any extra arms for his pitching rotation this spring, he might consider enlisting the services of the Apollos' boys' water polo team.

Peppering the cage with cannonball strikes that thudded off the brown canvas or violently ricocheted of the goal and into the outer reaches of the Aloha swimming pool, Sunset's hard-throwing, state tournament-inspiring squad scored nine goals in the first quarter against Beaverton.

The Apollos also held the Beavers without a score in the first half, jumping out to an 11-0 halftime lead and cruising to a 13-3 victory on Thursday.

Sunset received contributions from the familiar sources. Will Albright, Sean O'Brien, Braden Esping and Ben Lewis all scored in the runaway first quarter. What made head coach Doug Keller feel good was he able to put his bench players in and not give up any of the Apollos' advantage.

“It was a lot of teamwork to win the game,” said junior Taylor Schmeck “We practice two and half hours a day at least, with shooting drills. That's a big part of our team.”

Sunset set down screens around the cage to free up their top scorers around the top of the water, which allowed them to get off clean firecrackers from close range. If Beaverton stopped the initial opening, then the Apollos swam inside, leaped in the air and recurrently peppered the goal with attempts.

“We were having a good day and we just decided to go out there and try our best,” said Esping “Our team chemistry's great. We all know each other really well. We have a brothership bond that takes us far in the game.”

Keller said Sunset's counterattack and awareness of where each other were helped construct the early nine-goal lead.

“Confidence early is always a good thing,” said Keller. “Then, we played solid throughout the game. It's a fun group of guys to coach. Personality means a lot in this sport, just getting along with everybody and this team is really gelling.”

Schmeck said Sunset's trying to reach to the state playoffs and believes they have the talent to do it. The Apollos stayed with two-time defending state champion Southridge, pushing the Skyhawks in a 16-9 loss. Despite the defeat, in which Sunset played a poor first quarter but rebounded later on, Taylor Schmeck is confident Sunset can play the role of giant killer in the Metro.

“I think we can beat them if we practice more, and get our game down,” said Schmeck. “I know one of my other goals is I really want to go to state and maybe place in the top-three. I think we can, if we really work hard at it.”

Coming a week of hard-fought games and longer practices, Beaverton had to scrap through the first quarter and regain their sea legs, so to speak. By the time they'd adjusted to Sunset's speed, the visibly fatigued Beavers were sitting in a nine-goal hole, trying to dig out.

“We played as hard as we could,” said Hokkanen. “We tried as hard as we could and tried to win. We got down, weren't feeling good and couldn't figure out what to do.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton freshman Trace Hokkanen scored two goals for the Beavers during their 13-3 defeat to Sunset.

The game started to swing in Beaverton's favor in the third quarter when Hokkanen opened the second half with a goal and a pick pocket of Esping. Beaverton senior Jeff Soles scored another goal in the third after a nice touch pass from Gordon House and sophomore Max Welch tacked on a steal as well. The Beaver defense forced a 30-second violation and the offense started clicking more as Beaverton trimmed the halftime deficit to 14-2.

“We talked about how we have to drive a little bit faster and make sure we were moving more,” said Hokkanen. “We moved the ball more and got it down the pool faster. We kept going and playing hard.”

“We got in the mindset of 'We have to be faster and more aggressive',” said sophomore Kyle Dolby. “We couldn't be timid going back and forth. We have to realize we're here to play. We're not here to be participants. We're here to be athletes.”

Hokkanen scored twice more in the fourth by accepting passes from his teammates and going to work on the Apollo defense regardless of who was in front of him.

“I just went for it,” said Hokkanen. “I shot it, didn't care if I missed or not. I just shot it, went back and hoped I made it.”

Dolby noted Beaverton needs to improve their team communication, but that's to be expected with four freshmen and two newcomers on the team. Welch-a former soccer player at BHS- is one of those greenhorns who's learning the game against some of the best teams in the state, such as Southridge and Sunset. The learning curve has been steep and challenging at times, yet the Beavers have maintained a positive attitude with an eye towards the future.

“We have a lot of good younger players who are new to the game,” said Dolby. “We have seniors who are here to lead us also and when they're gone we'll still have a strong base and progress.”

“You have to push yourself harder and harder each day,” said Dolby. “You have to give your all in practice because if you don't, then in the game there's nothing you can do. We just need to show that we're here to play and top Metro, basically.”

Water polo's an assertive sport, as Dolby has discovered, but he's enjoyed the physical contact and the free reign to act tough.

“You basically get to be aggressive,” said Dolby. “That's the fun of the sport and a lot of adrenaline goes out to that, too. Sometimes you get dunked. Sometimes you get dragged into the water but you have to just get back and play the game.”

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