APS Knights lose a close one, look forward to game against Lakeside

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APS Knights lose a close one, look forward to game against Lakeside

The Southerner

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Luke Paddock takes advantage of the goalie coming out and shoots past him to score one of his three goals in the first half. Paddock finished tied with Ryan Switzer with a game high five goals. Photo by Joe Lavine.

BY JOE LAVINE

There was 1:14 left in the APS Knights’ first water polo game Saturday, and the Norcross B team gathered together during a timeout. Sam Cimowsky, one of the North Atlanta players on the APS Knights, had just scored the equalizer to make the score 9-9 and cap off the APS Knights’ 6-1 run in the second half. The Norcross B team seemed to be on its heels, and a nervous coach, Matt Roberts, desperately urged his players to finish the game.

“Whenever you’re ahead, do not look back!” he exclaimed.

The team responded and scored off of a pass to the middle, and the Knights were down by a goal with 18 seconds left. Without any timeouts left, it was solely up to the Knights in the pool to come up with a goal on their last possession, and two Grady players came through. Luke Paddock stalled with the ball, searching for a shot or a teammate to pass to, and he found Ryan Switzer who shot and scored with four seconds left.

“I saw the goal go in the left corner, and I just threw my hands in the air,” Switzer said.

A last second attempt from Norcross went off the crossbar as the buzzer sounded, and a game that seemed hopeless for the Knights after a five-goal halftime deficit was going into overtime. Coach Robin Smith of the APS Knights excitedly addressed his team at the side of the pool.

“Just score one goal, that’s all I want!” he said.

One goal would be all that any coach would want in the sudden death overtime, especially after the unprecedented comeback from the Knights. And the comeback was almost completed, but a shot from Paddock clanged off the crossbar.

“When I was right about to shoot it, I was thinking, ‘This is the game right here,’ and when I didn’t make it, I was like, ‘Here we go again, we’re gonna have to play really hard defense to pull this one out,’” Paddock said.

Paddock’s shot was the last chance for the Knights because on the next possession, with 2:07 left in overtime, Robert Pope scored the game-winning goal. It was a disappointing end of a high-paced, dramatic game, but Coach Stuart Sheldon was pleased with his team’s effort. He said they had a rough second quarter, but once they got back to their game plan, they executed much better.

“The problem in the second [quarter] was that we stopped swimming at the five [meter line] on offense and defense,” Sheldon said. “At halftime, we told them to swim all the way goal to goal.”

The Knights came out significantly stronger in the second half, especially Switzer, who scored four of his five goals. He also only took seven shots, giving him a 71 percent shooting percentage. Joe Bradley, the goalie, also made several important saves to allow the Knights to maintain their momentum and eventually tie the game.

Ryan Switzer follows through on a shot in the first half of the APS Knights’ first game of the season.

Coach Roberts explained that his team’s poor second half play was because the coaches started putting in kids that usually didn’t get much playing time. Towards the very end of the game, however, they made sure to give their team the best chance to win the game.

“We started to weave in kids with more experience,” Roberts said.

That is a luxury that the APS Knights could not afford. The team only has five kids who have played water polo before, while most of the Norcross players have played together for five years in spring and summer leagues. Paddock believes that the team’s inexperience hurts most on defense, but that the team will improve from last year.

“We have some inexperience because our players don’t know how physical to be, so my expectations for the rest of the year is that our players will play more physical defense and protect the goalie,” Paddock said. “I expect us to definitely be better than last year and have a better record at the end of the season.”

On Wednesday, the Knights will play Lakeside, who Coach Sheldon says is very similar to Norcross. He revealed the simple method for the Knights to be successful.

“The key will be to get to their second six,” Sheldon said.

If the Knights execute like they did in the second half against Norcross, they should be in good shape to get their first win of the season.

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