By Joe Naiman
The CIF playoff seeding and selection meeting ranked Ramona High School’s girls water polo team third among the three Division II teams in the Palomar League, but the Bulldogs were still seeded fourth in the Division II playoffs.
The selection committee’s decision last Monday was vindicated Feb. 18 when Ramona was one of three Division II teams with a first-round bye to win its quarterfinal match.
“We’re fine with that,” Coach Donnie Williams said of the fourth seed. “We pretty much felt we’d beat anybody below us anyway.”
The No. 4 seeding was the highest in Ramona girls water polo history. The top four seeds received first-round byes, so Ramona’s post-season began with an 8-5 win over La Costa Canyon in a match played at La Jolla High School’s Coggan Pool.
“I thought we played well against La Costa Canyon,” Williams said.
Each team scored once in the first period, but Ramona had a 6-1 halftime lead and an 8-3 margin after three quarters before the Mavericks scored both fourth-quarter goals.
“We just played it safe a little bit,” Williams said of the second half.
Bri Hogervorst had five goals and three steals.
“She had a really good game,” Williams said. “She was doing a good job at two-meter.”
Williams chose to orient his game strategy toward Hogervorst’s strengths.
“We focused a little bit more on what she would do, and it was very effective,” Williams said.
Paulina Bernd scored two goals while Cassie Bernas placed one shot into the net. Both of those players played sparingly in the second half. Bernd’s third exclusion penalty in the fourth quarter removed her from the game while Bernas was hit during play and missed parts of the third and fourth quarters.
Penalties accounted for all five of the Mavericks’ goals. Four were scored on extra-player situations while La Costa Canyon also took a successful five-meter penalty shot. The Mavericks had a total of 10 extra-player opportunities.
“We had a lot of exclusions in the game,” Williams said.
Ramona scored on one of four extra-player situations. The Bulldogs missed their only penalty shot.
Holly Smith contributed three assists for the Bulldogs while Rachel Hogervorst had two assists. Smith and Rachel Hogervorst each had four steals while Bernas contributed three steals and Jocelyn Schwegler recorded one steal.
“We actually had a ton of steals,” Williams said.
Ramona goalie Tiffany Larson made nine saves.
The win evened Ramona’s season record at 15-15.
“The girls are excited,” Williams said.
Ramona’s margin of victory exceeded the 9-7 result second-seeded Mt. Carmel posted against seventh-seeded West Hills. Third-seeded Westview was the only team with a first-round bye to lose its quarterfinal match. Sixth-seeded University City advanced to the semifinals with an 8-7 victory. Top-seeded Valhalla took a 12-6 win over Steele Canyon.
Ramona will play Valhalla in the semifinals on Feb. 22.