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No. 2 Righetti Refuses to Go Under to No. 1 Ventura for Third Time


SANTA BARBARA — The third time turned out to be the charm for No. 2-seeded Righetti High, which defeated top-seeded Ventura, 7-6, Wednesday night in the Southern Section Division IV boys' water polo championship at UC Santa Barbara.

After narrowly losing to the Cougars twice during the regular season, the Warriors (24-5) rode a three-goal performance by Jeremy Grubbs.

Grubbs scored the only two goals of the opening quarter, and his third goal of the evening with 5:14 left was the game winner.

The Cougars (26-2) tied the score, 5-5, one minute into the fourth quarter when Aaron Cox scored the first of his two goals.

Righetti, which lost in the championship game last season, answered with goals by Grubbs and Kevin Debacker in a 41-second span. Grubbs finished the season with 83 goals.

Chad Caldwell, a senior at Ventura, scored late in the second quarter and midway through the third. Caldwell also had two assists.

Todd Barbosa and Mike Derse scored the other goals for Ventura, and sophomore David Miller had 17 saves.

"The difference was that they had been there last year," said Coach Joe Abing of Ventura. "Their goalie was biggest difference tonight."

Joel Degna of Righetti had 17 saves, including four in the last three minutes to preserve the victory.

Ventura's only other loss this season came against Santa Barbara in a Channel League game. Santa Barbara fell to Righetti in the semifinals.

Despite the final defeat, the Cougars succeeded turning their program around. They won only three games in 1995, before Abing took over as Ventura's fourth coach in four years.

Righetti could relate to top-seeded Ventura's loss.

"They were a fine team," Coach Rob Knight of Righetti said. "We were No. 1-ranked last year and lost in the final.

"We have a lot of respect for them. We know what they're going through."

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