Last Thursday was a good day for the Patterson High water polo program. After an uplifting showing at the McNair tournament on Sept. 20-21, the Tigers continued that momentum when they hosted Livingston High on Oct. 3 at the Patterson Aquatic Center.

The girls secured their first 2019 win in the Central California Conference 8-2, while the boys held in a close match 10-9 over the Wolves to do the same.

Girls secure 8-2 win

The girls squad was first up and looked great against the Wolves, jumping out to a 3-0 lead following one quarter of action. The Tigers allowed the only goals scored by Livingston in the second quarter, but still won the frame 3-2 over the visitors to take a solid 6-2 lead overall.

Neither squad scored in the third quarter, before Patterson extended their lead when sophomore Kaeley Wheeland scored a pair of goals to cap off an 8-2 victory over Livingston for their first league win of 2019.

“Our girls have been working up to this moment since May. We’ve definitely improved on our swimming and ball handling,” head coach Pheoebe Skelson said following the win. “Really grateful to these girls and them playing hard this season.” 

Wheeland and junior Sophia Skelson had a strong offensive game, with three goals each. Seniors Arleth Cervantes and Brisa Salas chipped in with a goal each.

Sophomore goalie Francis Pierce was huge for Patterson, with a stout eight saves against Livingston on Thursday. Coach Skelson praised her young goalkeeper’s effort in Pierce’s first year playing the sport.

“She’s just awesome. She has an amazing work ethic,” Coach Skelson said.

Patterson entered last Thursday with the momentum of a second-place finish at the McNair Water Polo tournament held Sept. 20-21.

The Tigers defeated Mountain House, Calaveras and Stagg High before losing to McNair in the finals. Skelson credited that tournament as a discovery moment for the team.

“For the McNair tournament we were short a starter. A lot of the other players stepped up at that tourney,” Skelson said. “It’s made our team more flexible. I’m really hoping that they are learning to think for themselves.”

She credited the tournament with helping the players’ awareness in the pool, and hopes that it aids the program as they traverse through a still much more experienced Central California Conference.

Improvement is still Skelson’s stated number one goal, and she hopes to introduce a junior varsity program next year, should enough interest develop to give the program a sufficient number of players to fill out a second roster.

Nail biter finish results in 10-9 victory

The Patterson boys water polo team hopped out to a 7-2 lead through the first two quarters of play, but a strong-willed Livingston squad did not go down quietly.

Although the Tigers delivered the first two blows of the third quarter to jump out to a 9-2 lead, the Wolves roared back with four unanswered goals to trim the deficit to 9-6.

Patterson finished the third quarter with a one-goal response to head into the final frame up 10-6.

With a little over three minutes left in the fourth frame, Livingston made the game interesting with three goals over the next two minutes, to force a Patterson timeout with 1:11 left in a now 10-9 game.

In the end, 10 goals was enough to secure Patterson’s first league victory of 2019, staving off a potential Livingston comeback.

Sophomores Francisco Medina Ruiz, Luke Verhaegen, Justin Leon and junior Isaac Martikke scored a pair of goals each in the win. Senior Dominik Gutierrez and sophomore Jacob Zuniga scored one goal each.

“I knew the kids could do it, so I feel satisfied. Our boys have been putting in a ton of work and finally got the win they deserved,” head coach Valerie Jamieson.

Like the girls squad, placing third at the McNair tournament was a huge boon in establishing belief for the boys. Playing outside of the tough CCC lineup helped the squad see the fruits of their labor with more clarity and assertiveness.

The Tigers defeated Mountain House, Florin and Central Catholic at the McNair tournament. Their only loss was to the eventual champions of the bracket in Amador High.

“I think the tourney showed the boys what they know. It gave the awareness that they are doing well,” Jamieson. “It is a 90 percent mental game. Now they have that confidence and (are) getting out of their own heads. Now they can make the decision they’re supposed to make, but (previously) they were not sure about.”

PI sports writer

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