SIMI VALLEY — There was a spy in the house, and Royal High water polo Coach Steve Snyder knew it.
A representative from the Marina team--Royal's opponent on Friday in the second round of the Southern Section Division II playoffs--was present at the Highlanders' 12-5 victory over San Luis Obispo on Wednesday at Royal, videotaping the Highlanders.
Scouting opponents is a common practice, but Snyder decided to be crafty and minimize any information Marina could glean from the video.
"I'll tell you what," Snyder said. "With Marina taping the game, I didn't want to show anything--any trick, any play. I just wanted to keep it real generic."
Royal's game plan was bland but effective: "We put on a hard overall press and counterattacked when possible," Snyder said. "When we executed, it worked very efficiently."
The Highlanders broke the match open in the final quarter by outscoring San Luis Obispo, 6-1. Several times Royal counterattacked, creating one-on-one opportunities against San Luis Obispo goalie Josh Ernstrom.
Royal senior Greg Galloway played well in the fourth quarter, scoring two of his game-high five goals despite a bad cold.
"It's the best I've played all year," he said. "Things just clicked."
Especially at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the Highlanders (20-5), ranked ninth in Division II, scored four consecutive goals to increase their lead to 10-4.
Galloway had two goals during the run.
Royal's superiority was evident in the first half, but despite outshooting San Luis Obispo, 20-5, the Highlanders' lead was only 4-1.
In the third quarter, San Luis Obispo trimmed the margin to 4-3. But goals by Randy Owens and Galloway gave the Highlanders a cushion heading into the last period.
"We don't usually play consistently," Galloway said. "We kind of die out there at times and get burned. But this time we held them off."
Next comes Marina, ranked fourth in Division II, as the Highlanders attempt to advance to the semifinal round for the third consecutive year. Snyder likes his chances.
"Based on my observations, (top-seeded) Riverside Poly is a notch above everyone else," he said. "But from the second through the 10th seed, there's going to be upsets. Any of them can get to the final four."
Especially, Snyder hopes, a team that hides its best stuff from the cameras.