Because Ramona High School’s girls water polo team began the Benson Tournament with two losses, the Bulldogs spent the rest of the tournament in a lower bracket and didn’t earn a high finishing position.
The Bulldogs won the final three games of the Dec. 4-6 tournament and took a winning record out of the season’s first week.
“I think it was one of our best yet,” Coach Donnie Williams said of the tournament. “I can see that the girls are starting to believe in themselves.”
Ramona began the tournament Dec. 4 against Mira Costa High School of Manhattan Beach. The game was played at Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda.
The Mustangs earned a 10-4 victory at Ramona’s expense.
Three of Ramona’s four goals were scored during the fourth period. Kaylee Nelson scored Ramona’s first goal of the season in the second quarter, and one fourth-quarter goal apiece was tallied by Taylor Shinnick, Autumn Hillis and Desiree Nihart.
That put Ramona into the losers’ bracket for the second game Dec. 5 at Esperanza. The Bulldogs faced Redondo High School.
“We were in a tough bracket,” Williams said. “Redondo had some good players.”
Redondo’s 9-3 win saw Ramona score one goal each in the second, third, and fourth periods.
“They were frustrating us on offense,” Williams said. “Defensively I thought we weren’t terrible.”
Ramona’s second Dec. 5 game, also at Esperanza, saw the Bulldogs earn their first victory of the season as well as in the tournament. Ramona triumphed over Valencia High School by a 9-8 score.
“The score ended up being closer than what the game really was,” Williams said. “We were actually out on them all the time.”
The score was tied at a goal apiece after the first period, but the Bulldogs led 4-3 at halftime and 7-6 at the end of the third quarter.
“They were happy for that,” Williams said of his players’ reaction to the team’s first win of the season. “That made them feel better.”
Nelson had six goals against Valencia.
“She had a really big game,” Williams said. “She shot from all over the pool.”
Ramona’s next game two games were played Dec. 6 at Tustin High School, which has a full 50-meter pool similar to La Jolla High School’s Coggan Pool where the CIF San Diego Section championships are played.
Williams believes the larger pool worked to Ramona’s advantage even though the Bulldogs don’t have such a full-sized facility.
“Our girls are in pretty good shape,” he said.
Ramona’s first Dec. 6 match was against Glendale’s Hoover High School, and Ramona evened its tournament and season record with a 12-5 win.
“We were able to swim and make the plays we needed to make happen,” Williams said.
Ramona led 5-1 after the first period, 9-4 at halftime, and 11-4 after three quarters. Six different players scored goals for Ramona.
Shinnick led the Bulldogs with three goals. Hillis, Nelson, and Ashley Brean each put two balls into the net. Katelyn Bakun and Jessica Patterson shared Ramona’s goalkeeping duties and each scored once while playing in the field, and Ashley Shields also scored one goal for the Bulldogs.
Ramona’s final tournament game was against Yorba Linda High School.
“They played pretty tight,” Williams said.
Although Ramona ended the game with a 9-6 victory, the Bulldogs trailed 4-3 after the first period with all four Yorba Linda goals occurring on man-up situations. The score was tied at five goals each at the halftime whistle, and Ramona took an 8-6 lead in the third period.
Shinnick scored five goals against Yorba Linda.
Nelson, who played two-meter defense for the game’s final three quarters, had four assists.
“It was a good way to finish,” Williams said. “With three wins in a row, they felt a lot better about what they were doing.”