Ramona High School’s boys water polo team placed third in the East County Invite tournament Oct. 23-25.
“We should have actually finished second,” said Coach Donnie Williams, lamenting a close loss to El Capitan in the 16-team tournament.
Ramona concluded the tournament with a win over El Camino in the third-place game, which also gave the Bulldogs an overall season record of 9-13. That record includes a 4-5 mark in Valley League play.
The Bulldogs began the week at San Marcos and defeated the Knights by a 10-6 score.
“They all played really well,” Williams said of his players.
The Bulldogs led 2-1 after the end of the first quarter, and at halftime the score was tied at three goals apiece.
The Bulldogs then built an 8-5 cushion by the end of the third period.
“Everybody started playing smart,” Williams said.
Ramona goalkeeper Nick Ashton made seven saves against San Marcos; none were required in the first period.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of pressure,” Williams said.
Five different Bulldogs scored while six Ramona players had at least one assist. Mike Studley led Ramona with four goals and Alan Williams paced the Bulldogs with three assists.
The win over San Marcos gave the Bulldogs a .500 Valley League record, but a 12-8 loss Oct. 22 at home to Mount Carmel deprived Ramona of a winning league mark. Ramona led Mount Carmel by a 2-1 score after the first quarter.
“I thought we were close most of the game,” Williams said. “We matched up good with their better players.”
The Sundevils took a 5-2 halftime lead and were ahead 10-6 after three periods.
Four different Bulldogs scored goals against Mount Carmel while five players had assists.
“You can key on one, but the rest of them are still going to score for you,” Williams said of the team’s balanced offense.
The Bulldogs began the East County Invite with two Oct. 23 games at El Capitan High School. Ramona opened the tournament with a 13-4 victory over Mount Miguel.
The Mount Miguel match was also the varsity debut of Ramona goalie Alex Sparks, who was called up from the junior varsity while Ashton recovered from an injury. Sparks made seven saves against the Matadors in his first varsity match.
“Alex did a good job for us,” Williams said.
The second Oct. 23 game was against Otay Ranch. Ramona built up a 4-0 lead over the Mustangs before concluding with an 8-5 triumph.
The two wins on the tournament’s first day put Ramona into the winners’ bracket. Ramona’s sole Oct. 24 game was against El Capitan at the Mount Miguel pool.
“We didn’t really start playing until the fourth quarter,” Williams said. “We just weren’t making our shots.”
El Capitan’s 8-6 win involved the Vaqueros overcoming a 1-0 Ramona lead at the end of the first quarter. El Capitan led 2-1 at halftime and 5-2 after three periods.
Ramona’s two October 25 games were played at El Cajon Valley High School. In a 16-5 loss to Westview, the Bulldogs scored the game’s first goal but didn’t score again until the fourth period.
“They’re just a really good team,” Williams said of Westview.
The tournament game against the Wolverines will not count in the Valley League standings, but Westview complemented an undefeated Valley League season to date with the tournament championship.
In the Valley League matchup Oct. 9 between Ramona and Westview, the Bulldogs did not score until the fourth period in an 11-3 loss.
Ramona also struggled in the second quarter during the third-place game against El Camino. Although Ramona led 2-1 after the first quarter, the Wildcats had a 5-3 halftime lead.
Ramona led 8-6 after three periods.
“The third quarter we picked it up quite a bit,” Williams said.
El Camino scored the fourth quarter’s first goal, but the Bulldogs tallied the remaining two scores for a 10-7 win.
“That was a good game,” Williams said.
Ashton returned to the Ramona lineup for the El Camino game. The first Saturday match also saw two Bulldogs absent due to the ACT college entrance test administered that morning.
The East County Invite doesn’t have an all-tournament team but includes a most valuable player for each team. Studley was Ramona’s MVP.
“He was pretty consistent through almost all the games,” Williams said.