By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s girls water polo team won the East County Invitational tournament for the first time in Bulldog history.
“That was pretty cool. We’ve placed second twice in the last two years,” said coach Donnie Williams.
Ramona’s championship in the Jan. 20-25 tournament gave the Bulldogs an eight-game winning streak and a 12-5 overall record, including a 2-0 statistic in Valley League play.
The winning streak began Jan. 15, which was also the Bulldogs’ Valley League opener. Ramona hosted Valley Center that day.
“They’ve always been our nemesis in league play,” Williams said.
The Jaguars weren’t such a nemesis in Ramona’s 20-5 win. The Bulldogs led 6-0 after the first quarter, 12-2 at halftime, and 17-2 at the end of three periods.
“Our girls were able to get a lot of opportunities,” said Williams.
The opportunities included the first varsity goals for Ramona players Logan Johnson, Leanna Apodaca, and Carney Flinn. Ramona’s 15-goal margin of victory wasn’t necessarily due to Valley Center’s lack of offense; Bulldog goalkeeper Morgan Wallace made 12 saves against the Jaguars.
Ramona’s Jan. 16 game at Mt. Carmel was a non-league game but had CIF playoff seeding implications as both teams are in Division II for playoff purposes.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Williams said.
Ramona and Mt. Carmel each scored once in the first quarter. The Bulldogs led 3-2 at halftime and 6-3 after three quarters, but the Sundevils had the first three scores of the fourth period to tie the game. Ramona then scored the next two goals and finished on the preferable end of the 9-7 final result. Wallace had 10 saves against Mt. Carmel while Paulina Bernd recorded eight steals.
Both of Ramona’s Jan. 20 East County Invitational matches were played at the El Capitan High School pool. The first was a 12-0 victory over Olympian in which the Bulldog girls led 6-0 at the end of the first period and 12-0 when the halftime buzzer sounded.
“Good defense all the way around,” said Williams.
Wallace had six saves in her shutout against the Eagles, and she also led the team with five steals. The Bulldogs had a total of 12 steals against Olympian.
Ramona’s other Jan. 20 contest was an 11-3 triumph over Bonita Vista. The Bulldogs led 4-0 after the first period and 10-1 at halftime. Wallace made six saves and added a steal.
A Jan. 22 league game at home against Oceanside was a 13-5 win for the Bulldogs. The 5-1 lead after one quarter became a 9-2 halftime cushion and a 12-2 advantage after three periods. Wallace once again had six saves and a steal. Cassie Bernas led the team, both with four goals and four steals, and Jocelyn Schwegler contributed three goals.
“We should have a good shot at winning league this year,” Williams said.
Tournament play resumed Jan. 24 at El Capitan. The Bulldogs played La Jolla Country Day and had a 4-2 lead when the first period ended.
The Bulldogs scored all three goals during the second period, had a 10-3 lead entering the final quarter, and won the game by an 11-3 margin.
Ramona’s first Jan. 25 game was at El Capitan. The semifinal between Ramona and Rancho Buena Vista ended as a 12-4 Ramona win. The Bulldogs scored all four first-quarter goals and led 6-1 at halftime and 8-3 after three periods.
“It was a good solid performance by all the girls,” said Williams.
Wallace had six saves against the Longhorns. Schwegler and Bernd shared the lead with four steals with Daniella Talento adding three steals. Bernd and Holly Smith each had three goals.
The Jan. 25 championship game between Ramona and Otay Ranch was played at West Hills High School. The Mustangs scored the game’s first goal, but Ramona had the other two scores in the first period. A 7-1 halftime lead and a 10-1 margin after three periods contributed to Ramona’s 10-2 victory and tournament championship.
“Girls worked hard. I just pushed them in the right direction. They did all the work,” Williams said.
The Bulldogs’ final tournament of the year, the San Diego Open, begins Feb. 3 with RHS playing Steele Canyon and Bishop’s high schools at Granite Hills High School. The Bulldogs have a Feb. 5 league match at Orange Glen.