That was the difference for Point Loma boys water polo between their second championship in the past three years and a frustrating second place finish.
The team's last title, in 2015, was the school's first and came in Div. III. Since then, the Pointers have been elevated to Div. I, placing them among the county's elite teams.
"It was definitely an eye-opener," said head coach Ken Toma of his team's upward move. "There was an adjustment period, but (the players) knew what was coming and after last year's loss in the quarterfinals they knew what it would take to be ready."
Playing against the Canyon Crest Academy's Ravens, the Pointers came back from an early 4-1 first period Raven lead to scratch back to a one-goal deficit (5-4) with 3:30 left in the third period. But their opponents scored twice to reassert control of the game.
The final score: Ravens 8, Pointers 6.
A sizable and loud number of Pointer fans made their way to the Coggan Family Pool Complex at La Jolla High for the Nov. 10 final and saw goals come from the following players:
Senior Kai Ball scored twice while senior Jack Loewer, junior brothers Chase and Wood Rodi along with sophomore Wyatt Egan each found the net.
Junior RJ LaRocco had 11 saves in goal.
By contrast, the Raven goalkeeper made 15 saves of Pointer shots.
The road to the finals was a thriller for the Pointers and their fans.
Pitted in the semifinals against perennial power Carlsbad, the Pointer found themselves in a dogfight when, after they took an 8-5 lead into halftime, the Lancers battled back to take a 12-10 lead with only 2:52 left in the game. But after the Pointers scored twice to tie the game, Wood Rodi's goal with 39 seconds left proved the difference in a 13-12 Pointer victory.
"There was a transition in the offensive end," Wood Rodi said after the game. "In the counterattack I was able to get ahead of my defender, the ball was put in, I had advantage of the cage and I put it away."
In that game, Loewer scored five goals, Ball added three and Wood Rodi had two.
LaRocco's seventh save of the game, on a final Carlsbad shot with 15 seconds remaining, sealed the win and sent the Pointers to the finals.
"All ten of our seniors have worked super hard," said Toma. "They're dedicated, never miss practice, are very accountable and they've been very key in the leadership aspect to make the season what it was."
Ball is the only remaining member of the 2015 team that last won a CIF championship. He has accepted an offer to play for Cal Berkeley.
Other seniors on the team are Nolan Morwood, Lucas Pape, Michael Kuhn, Zack Azar, Lucas Mantoani, Max Bregman, Nick LaRocco and Alex Gilcrist.