By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s girls water polo team opened Valley League play Jan. 15 with a 7-4 win over Oceanside High School at Brook Street Pool in Oceanside.
The Bulldogs then faced La Costa Canyon for the first time since losing to the Mavericks in last season’s CIF Division II semifinals. The Jan. 17 result at Ramona was a 13-10 win for the Bulldogs.
Both games involved multiple lead changes. The first quarter of the Oceanside game was scoreless.
“The girls were kind of a bit off to start that game,” said coach Donnie Williams.
The team had traveled to El Capitan High School for practice the night before the Oceanside game. The heater in Ramona’s pool broke Jan. 8, forcing non-pool practice that day and the next day, and practice in the El Capitan pool Jan. 10 and 14. (Ramona had a January 11 road game against Escondido).
Ramona scored first against the Oceanside Pirates, who had the next two successful shots. Ramona then tied the game to create a 2-2 halftime score.
“We had plenty of shots, plenty of missed shots,” Williams said.
“Third quarter they kind of came out a little stronger,” he said. “We had a couple of good opportunities but couldn’t finish.”
The Pirates took a 3-2 lead in the third quarter before Holly Smith’s goal tied the game once again. The teams entered the fourth period in a 3-3 deadlock. Oceanside took a 4-3 margin before Smith once again tied the game with a successful shot.
In hockey if a team’s goalkeeper receives a penalty, another player serves that penalty and the goalie remains on the ice. In water polo a goalie who receives a 20-second exclusion penalty must leave the cage. Such a situation happened to Ramona goaltender Tiffany Larson, but before one of Oceanside’s players could pass to an open teammate, Cassie Bernas stole the ball.
Williams immediately called time out. After the penalty expired, Bernas took a shot which gave Ramona a 5-4 lead with about 4 1/2 minutes left.
“That kind of just set the pace for the rest of the quarter,” Williams said. “You could see the momentum had shifted.”
A five-meter penalty shot gave Ramona a 6-4 lead, and an extra-player goal closed out the scoring.
“The girls stepped up and played well,” Williams said. “They never let down. They continued to work hard and played hard.”
Larson had four saves and a steal. The team had 14 steals; Bernas led the Bulldogs with four while six other players recorded at least one steal.
Smith had four goals against the Pirates, along with two assists. Holly Fletcher and Josie Ward joined Bernas in having a goal apiece. Rachel Hogervorst had two assists.
“That was a big first win for us,” Williams said.
The heater in Ramona’s pool was fixed on the morning of Jan. 14, although the completion of returning the pool to desired temperature didn’t take place until Jan. 16. The team practiced in its own pool that day before hosting La Costa Canyon the following day.
In the La Costa Canyon game, the Mavericks scored first, but Jocelyn Schwegler tied the game about 20 seconds later and Smith’s goal gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. A La Costa Canyon goal late in the first quarter created a 2-2 tie at the end of that period.
La Costa Canyon also scored the initial second-period goal, but Schwegler scored again for Ramona and scored once more within a minute to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead. La Costa Canyon’s Katlin Mackle took an outside shot which went into the corner of the net to create another tie.
“We ended up going back and forth all the way through the half,” Williams said.
Ramona overcame a 6-5 lead to tie the game, but a La Costa Canyon goal in the final five seconds of the second period gave the Mavericks a 7-6 halftime lead.
Williams and his players knew that stopping Mackle would be the key to the Bulldogs’ success.
“We made the adjustment,” Williams said.
Ramona double-teamed Mackle during the second half. She ended the game with six goals, but only one of those was after the second quarter.
“You can see the difference right there once we figured out what we had to do,” said Williams.
La Costa Canyon’s other strong shooter is Carinna Prinl, and Ramona’s defense held her to three goals: two in the second quarter and one early in the third period.
Ramona scored the third quarter’s first goal and had a 10-8 lead at one time with Smith scoring all four of Ramona’s goals in the third period to that point.
The Mavericks tied the game by scoring the next two goals. With two seconds left in the third period, Paulina Bernd’s second goal of the game gave Ramona an 11-10 lead. Smith’s seventh goal of the game early in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a 12-10 cushion before Bernas closed out the game’s scoring with 1:44 left.
“It was a close game all the way through,” Williams said.
Smith also had four steals, as did Bernd and Bernas. Hogervorst had three assists. Larson made 14 saves.
“They all contributed,” Williams said of his players.
The non-league win gave Ramona an overall season record of 8-5. The Bulldogs will spend Friday and Saturday at the East County Invitational tournament.