By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s boys water polo team honored its three seniors with a 17-2 victory over Orange Glen on Tuesday, Senior Night.
“They did really well,” said acting coach Sophia Klar. “I think they gave the seniors a good last game.”
The game was the final regular-season one for Ramona’s two seniors and the Bulldogs’ exchange student, who is considered a junior, and it was also their final home match.
The team will enter the CIF playoffs with an 18-10 record, including a 4-1 Valley League mark, which placed second behind Valley Center in the final standings.
Klar is Ramona’s junior varsity and novice coach. Coach Donnie Williams’ mother died Oct. 26 in Havre, Mont., so Williams left for Montana and Klar took over the team for a week.
“I think they played a good game for Donnie,” Klar said.
Williams is also Ramona’s girls water polo coach, and Klar played for him before graduating from Ramona High School in 2007. She then spent three years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, before completing her college studies as an exchange student at the University of Sweden.
Klar returned to the Ramona program last year as the junior varsity and novice coach for the boys and girls. She had never previously coached a varsity game.
“It’s a different game,” she said of coaching varsity. “I’m used to coaching JV and novice. You’re just trying to practice the basics.”
Klar’s varsity coaching debut became somewhat of a practice.
“Each quarter we were going to run one play,” Klar said.
The Bulldogs worked on that specific play repeatedly during the quarter. Klar also pulled one of the seniors, goalie Isaac Gross, from the nets after one period and inserted junior varsity goalie Taylor Holas in the cage for the final three quarters.
Gross spent the rest of the game as a field player, and all three seniors scored at least one goal and had at least one steal, Gross scored two goals while recording one steal as a goalie and one steal as a field player. Senior Ian Jacoway had one goal and one steal.
Since exchange student Matteo Franchello will be returning to Italy, the Bulldogs honored him as a senior. Franchello had a goal and two steals.
Eleven different players scored goals for the Bulldogs while 11 different players recorded steals. Jesse Reiling scored three goals for Ramona, Gross’ two scores were matched by Ryan Hall, Cory Davison, and Levi Vermeulen, and one goal apiece was tallied by Wyatt Jeffers, Austin Benke, Vinnie Talento, and Garrett Klem as well as by Jacoway and Franchello.
Vermeulen led the Bulldogs with six steals. Ramona’s 22 steals against the Patriots also included three by Holas, two apiece by Reiling and Klem, and one each by Talento, Hall, Jeffers, and Thomas Abbott.
“It’s nice to have the opportunity to coach a varsity team,” Klar said. “The pressure they put on each other at that level is really incredible.”
Klar tried to coach as Williams has done during her two years as the lower-level coach.
“They were very accepting of it,” she said of her players. “It was probably not the best Senior Night in terms of game matchup, but it was still Senior Night. “It means a lot.”
Since the game was likely the final one for Orange Glen, the Bulldogs also honored the Patriots’ seniors.
“I think it meant a lot to them,” Klar said.
Ramona combined the Bulldogs’ junior varsity and novice teams for the other Oct. 30 game against Orange Glen, which does not have a novice program. Klar also coached that team, which defeated the Patriots to conclude the season with a 5-0 Valley League record and thus capture the league championship.
“The novice and JV boys did extremely well this year,” Klar said. “Every level is just a really great group.”