Ho-hum. The Davis High water polo programs were at again, each rolling to SJS titles.
By JIM McCUE | Contributor
The Davis water polo program has owned the Sac-Joaquin Section, and on Saturday the boys and girls team laid their claims with Division I section championships in back-to-back games at the Woodcreek Aquatics Center in Roseville. The boys team defeated Delta Valley Conference rival Jesuit-Carmichael 13-9 while the girls downed league foe St. Francis-Sacramento 11-3.
The Blue Devils drew upon valuable experience gained from playing tough competition outside of the section, as well as past section championships, to put away their opponents.
“This is an experienced team and they know what to do in critical moments,” longtime Davis boys coach Tracy Stapleton said. “Knowing how to win games like these was the difference.”
The boys team might not have expected any late critical moments after the Blue Devils led 5-1 after one quarter and 6-2 at the midway point. But the Marauders forced the issue and applied plenty of pressure to test Davis’ resolve and put the Blue Devils on the brink of suffering their first loss this season against a team located north of Fresno. Of the team’s six losses, five came to Southern California opponents and the sixth was a narrow loss to Buchanan-Clovis.
Jesuit closed a 7-2 gap to a slim 9-8 margin in the fourth quarter, and came within inches of tying the game with 4:32 remaining. Instead of the tie, though, junior goalkeeper Jeff Stark made a huge save on a shot that many thought may have entered the cage. The three-year starter in net secured the ball, distributed it to a teammate, and then let the potent Blue Devils offense reclaim the game.
“My third quarter was a little rough, but we knew that we just needed to play as a team,” Stark said. “We played good team defense and then let the offense win it for us.”
Freshman Cameron Wright scored three first-quarter goals to spark Davis early, but it was experienced juniors and seniors that tallied all of Davis’ goals in the final three quarters. Senior captain Graham Fullerton stretched the lead to 11-8 with 1:54 remaining on a highlight-reel shot where he turned and fired a pinpoint shot to the lower opposite corner from long distance.
“All of the training and trips pays dividends at the end of the year,” Stapleton said.
The win gave Davis its second consecutive section title. Jesuit was led by senior Evan Mattern’s three goals and two scores from impressive freshman Josh Orrick. The Marauders and Blue Devils have claimed 16 of the last 18 section Division I championships, with nine titles going to Davis and seven to Jesuit. Loaded with underclassmen, the Marauders are expected to be contenders along with the Blue Devils next year.
Similarly, Davis and St. Francis have been perennial contenders on the girls’ side. The two programs have faced each other in each of the last 10 Division I championship games. On this day, the Blue Devils claimed their fifth consecutive championship and finished their season undefeated against SJS foes without the late-game intensity endured by their male counterparts.
Davis jumped out to an early lead and never looked back against the Troubadours. Seniors Lauren Owens and Heather Johnson led a balanced attack in which four players scored two goals each, but it was a renewed team focus that keyed the rout.
“We had been starting slow in a lot of games, so our goal every practice for the playoffs was focused on getting fast starts,” junior Colby Stapleton said. “Coach (Doug Wright) really motivated us, and we played our best game of the season.”
That was bad news for St. Francis which finished as runners-up for the fifth straight year. The Troubadours, under first-year coach and former Olympian, Heather Moody, got goals from sisters Brinnley and Jennalyn Barthels, and Eileen Walsh.
Juniors Stapleton and Mara Dominguez will return from the Blue Devils’ Fab Four field players as will junior goalkeeper Maddie Lilliedoll when Davis bids for a sixth straight Div. I championship
DIVISION II BOYS
Rio Americano-Sacramento won its fifth straight Div. II section crown with a 19-6 statement victory over upstart Bella Vista-Fair Oaks.
Senior Luke Hastie and junior Ian Brady led a powerful offensive attack, and senior goalkeeper Gavin White anchored Rio Americano’s defense which shut down Bella Vista’s star scorer Austin Stevenson.
“I think we did a nice job of taking away Austin,” Raiders coach Tyson Frenn said. “Our game plan was to be extremely physical and press constantly. The guys like to press more than they like to play zone and they wanted to prove that we were as physical as any team out there.”
Frenn pointed to a lackluster effort in an 11-6 opening-round playoff victory over Christian Brothers-Sacramento to the team’s focus on another section title. The Raiders were more physical than a tough Sonora team in an 18-9 semifinal win before handling Bella Vista in the title game.
DIVISION II GIRLS
The Oakdale Mustangs upset favored Rio Americano 5-3 despite getting just a single goal from senior standout Shelby Stender. Oakdale won their first championship in its third title-game appearance, and are the only team to defeat Rio Americano in the SJS Div. II playoffs in the 12 years of competition.
The Raiders were seeking their 11th title in 12 years, but were done in by cold shooting and a red-hot Oakdale goalkeeper. Sophomore Caitlin Golding frustrated Rio Americano with numerous saves while Emily Bennett’s pair of second-quarter goals sparked the Mustangs to victory.
“I though that we played well and got lots of counter-attack and 6-on-5 opportunities, but just couldn’t get the ball in the goal,” said Frenn, who also coaches the Raiders’ girls team. “We had a bad shooting day at the wrong time, but their goalkeeper played extremely well.”
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