By Joe Naiman
For the second consecutive year Ramona High School’s girls water polo team defeated La Costa Canyon in the CIF Division II quarterfinals.
The Bulldogs, who took an 8-5 victory over the Mavericks in 2012, overcame La Costa Canyon one-goal leads Feb. 16, both in the third quarter and midway in the fourth period, en route to an 8-6 victory.
“They made the run when they needed to in the fourth quarter,” said coach Donnie Williams. “When they were down they fought well and ended up with the win.”
The Bulldogs and Mavericks had faced each other once during the regular season; the Jan. 17 non-league game ended as a 13-10 Ramona triumph.
During the non-league game La Costa Canyon had a 7-6 halftime lead with Katlin Mackle scoring five of the Mavericks’ first-half goals. Ramona held Mackle to one goal in the second half of that game.
The Feb. 10 CIF playoff selection and seeding meeting gave Ramona the Division II second seed, behind Valhalla and immediately ahead of Steele Canyon, while seeding the Mavericks seventh. The seeding gave Ramona a first-round bye prior to the quarterfinal match against La Costa Canyon at La Jolla High School’s Coggan Pool.
Williams and his players knew that the key to winning the playoff match would be to limit Mackle’s offensive production.
“She’s just a really good shooter,” Williams said.
The Bulldogs scored both first-quarter goals.
“Game started out well. We had a few good opportunities early on,” Williams said.
Midway in the first quarter Jocelyn Schwegler scored the game’s first goal following a pass from Paulina Bernd. Late in the period Rachel Hogervorst passed to Cassie Bernas, who scored the game’s second goal with the ensuing shot.
“They were playing pretty well together as a team,” Williams said.
That included the defense against Mackle.
“They shut her down pretty well,” Williams said.
Mackle put La Costa Canyon on the scoreboard during the first minute of the second period. The Bulldogs then staved off two power plays.
“Our defense did a good job of shutting them down,” Williams said.
Midway in the second period Mackle tied the game with another goal. The Bulldogs took a 3-2 lead on Holly Fletcher’s power-play goal which was made possible by Hogervorst’s pass. In the final two minutes of the quarter Mackle scored on a five-meter penalty shot to tie the game once again. The final second-period goal was Bernd’s counterattack shot which gave Ramona a 4-3 halftime lead.
Ramona goalie Tiffany Larson, who made 16 saves throughout the game, made six of those saves in the second quarter.
“They weren’t afraid to take shots from anywhere in the pool,” Williams said.
La Costa Canyon took its first lead of the game by scoring the first two goals of the third period.
“We struggled at times,” Williams said of that quarter.
Although the Mavericks took the lead with 30 seconds left in the period, Bernas subsequently scored following Holly Smith’s pass to allow the quarter to end in a 5-5 deadlock.
In water polo an ejection, or exclusion, is a 20-second penalty in which a team must play short-handed unless a goal is scored against them during that penalty period. A player with three ejections is majored, or removed from the game. Bernd’s third ejection was issued two minutes into the fourth quarter.
“That kind of hurt us,” Williams said.
The fourth quarter was scoreless for the first 3 1/2 minutes, but with 3:30 remaining the Mavericks took a 6-5 lead.
“The momentum had shifted,” Williams said.
The Bulldogs then scored three goals within 72 seconds of play. Smith swam down the pool before a skip shot traveled about 6-1/2 meters into the net with 3:09 remaining. On Ramona’s next possession Fletcher’s shot went into the right side of the net with 2:37 left in the quarter. Although the Mavericks double-teamed Bernas, she shot over both defenders and scored with 1:47 on the clock.
“That changed the momentum,” Williams said.
La Costa Canyon created an 8-7 score with a lob shot which went past Larson with 37 seconds remaining.
“We had to use everything we had, run the clock down,” Williams said.
Ramona didn’t score before the 30-second shot clock was at zero. The Mavericks called time-out with seven seconds left, but Bernas stole the ball shortly afterward.
“Cassie came up big,” Williams said.
That allowed Williams to call time-out with three seconds left.
“It was a good team effort in the fourth quarter,” Williams said.
Larson had three steals in addition to her 16 saves.
“She did a great job,” Williams said. “I think she probably had one of her better games.”
Bernas had an assist as well as her two goals. Her game-saving steal was her fifth of the game, and she also had a field block. Smith also had three steals.
“We did a very good job of shutting them down defensively,” Williams said.
The win also gave Ramona a 20-victory season, as the Bulldogs improved their record to 20-9.
“I’m very proud of them,” Williams said.
The Bulldogs return to Coggan Pool Thursday night for a 7:30 semifinal match against Steele Canyon. The winner of that game will advance to Saturday’s championship game.