In more ways than one, it was a season to remember for the Sobrato High boys and girls water polo teams.
Both squads wrapped up successful seasons in the Blossom Valley Athletic League tournament the week of Oct. 24 at Santa Teresa High. The girls were the No. 7 seed and beat No. 10 seed Prospect 13-5 on Oct. 25 before playing tough in losing to No. 6 seed Pioneer the following day, 10-7.
“(Pioneer) was probably one of our best games of the season,” Bulldogs coach Kyle Edgar said. “It was super close for most of the game and a really good fight between the two schools.”
Sobrato went 7-1 to win the BVAL’s Santa Teresa Division. Abby Humphrey and Melina Kwarcinski at many points in the season were simply unstoppable. The duo were by far the leading goal scorers on the team. They scored in a variety of ways and were impressive in how often they did it.
Sophomore Zoe Childers won her fair share of swim-offs and was one of the catalysts for the team’s counter attacks. Maile Ryan volunteered her time at goalie early in the season before finding a great role as a perimeter offensive threat.
“Maile was making crazy outside shots for us the whole season,” Edgar said. “She was hitting the corner of the goal which is what we wanted.”
Edgar was particularly pleased that Isabel Wipf emerged as a bona-fide goalie around the halfway point of the season. The team didn’t have a returning goalie and was rotating through players for the position early on before Wipf decided to take the reins for good.
“Isabel stepped up and did an awesome job for us,” Edgar said. “We were so happy to have an actual goalie. She’s a senior and in her first year of playing water polo, but she did the job for us.”
Even though the team has nine seniors, Edgar said it’s a little misleading in that several players had little to no experience entering the season.
“I’m going to remember how hard the team worked and how far we came,” he said. “For the most part, a lot of girls didn’t know what they were doing because they were new to the sport. And we turned into a team that really knew what we were doing and now we know how to play water polo.”
Due to pool issues, the Sobrato boys and girls teams didn’t play a single home match all season. The adversity they faced in jumbled practice schedules and always being on the road didn’t deter them from accomplishing much this season.
The boys team went 6-4 in division play and as the No. 9 seed in the league tournament lost to No. 8 seed Gunderson, 14-12. Even in defeat, the Bulldogs showed the improvement they made this season. Gunderson beat Sobrato in both regular-season meetings, and neither were terribly close.
And for a while it looked as if the third match between the two teams would follow the script of the first two. However, after falling behind 9-3 in the opening minute of the third quarter, Sobrato outscored Gunderson 9-5 the rest of the way to make things close.
The Bulldogs twice got to within a goal at 10-9 and 11-10, but never got the equalizer. Lucas Castro had six goals, Matthew Primeau four and Alex Portera two. Sobrato was trailing 10-4 when Primeau scored from six meters, igniting a 4-0 run to end the third period.
Castro’s most impressive goal came early in the fourth quarter when a defender dunked him, only to see Castro rise out of the water and unleash an absolute laser shot to cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 10-9. The team seemed to feed off Castro’s emotion as he repeatedly pumped his fist and stared at his teammates after his goals, exhorting them to compete.
“Lucas had some beautiful shots in the set and Matt had some nice outside shots,” coach Dale Dowd said. “Those couple of things went our way and things kind of snowballed.”
Castro and Portera were the team’s leading goal scorers, and Primeau also scored many times. Goalie JT Gerrity produced a couple of terrific saves against Gunderson, which was no surprise given he was solid throughout the season.
“JT, I don’t give that kid enough glory,” Dowd said. “He shows up every practice and he saved our butts a lot even toward the end of last season. He’s a fantastic goalie and makes fantastic passes. He saves our tail and he kicks butt. He is a tough son of a gun and a major part of our team.”
Dowd said Colby Nigh and Keegan Bettencourt had strong games against Gunderson.
“Keegan told me how much fun he had and I love seeing a guy being gung-ho and not being afraid,” Dowd said. “I think our younger guys even inspired the older guys, and I love seeing that.”
Dowd said Castro, Portera, Primeau, Gerrity, Ethan Wells and Flynn Brown were the half-dozen players who were stalwarts in terms of attending practices and matches.
“They were the six kids who showed up regularly, probably 90% of the time,” Dowd said.
With a varsity roster of 11, Dowd had to mix and match often, and several junior varsity athletes played two matches in a single day.
“For sure I’d like to give a shout out to the JV freshmen and sophomores,” Dowd said. “A lot of the young guys were doing double days and playing two times just to fill out the varsity bench. A lot of those JV kids were the first ones in the water and the last ones to leave. When team morale was low, my freshmen and sophomore kids were that light that helped to keep everything in perspective where you start getting reminded and think, ‘Man this is pretty fun.’ I’m proud of all the boys for putting in a maximum effort and making the season fun.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]