Visalia, CA — Storming out to a 3-0 first quarter and 5-1 halftime lead, El Diamante High School Girls resurfaced with their first CIF Central Section Water Polo Championship in the past seven years, 10-4 over rival Redwood High School.
The win climaxed a 28-3 season in which the “El D” Miners captured their 4th Sectional “Valley” Title, (most recent was 2009), while sharing the West Yosemite League (WYL) Title, (10-2 League), with the Hanford HS Girls.
I thoroughly enjoyed the efforts by both teams — and the score likely would’ve been a lot closer if it weren’t for great defensive pressure by the Miners in forcing 8 shots harmlessly off the goalposts and 5 shots wide of the mark completely. Of the 16 on target, 12 were blocked or tipped by Lauren Hooyer, Junior Goalkeeper, who only allowed 4 into the net. Two goals that kept the Redwood Rangers in the game early were by Senior Co-Captain McKenzie Darnell, but alas, those were not enough to get back from the 3-0 and 5-1 deficits.
Senior Tri-Captain Makenzie Huskey led all scorers with 7 goals and 3 steals, an ejection drawn and a penalty foul drawn. Her penalty score and two lobs from the right side set the tone for the game early. One lob was from 6m on a direct free throw, the other on a counter, to go with a third lob score in the Third Quarter (assisted by Junior Devon Greenall, who also scored on a lob in the Fourth Quarter).
According to Huskey, “Our team was so confident, thanks to preparation by our coaches (Robert Young, Head Coach with his Assistant Coach Darcie). We wanted it bad.” (b~note: hearing Makenzie usually powers it in — but I love good lobs, and these were great — so I asked, why now?). “Yeah, I never really shoot lobs, but I saw they were ‘open,’ so I let them go,” she answered. Perfect tactic; perfect timing; perfect arc.
Ms. Huskey’s final two scores were both off of assists from classmate Sarid “Andi” Morales, who was winning three sprints and drawing two ejections herself to go along with her great defense.
“We’ve been wanting it for four years,” exclaimed Morales post-game. “It was back in our pool — so we were in our element. After our first WYL Title for us Seniors, it is also our first Valley Title! We’re so excited!”
Morales had drawn an ejection late in the Third Quarter, so her team lined up with a player advantage to start the Fourth. She sprinted, won, then drove unmarked toward goal. She got the ball back too late to get a shot off, instead drew a foul, then dished a clean dry-pass assist to Huskey for the insurmountable 8-3 lead. When questioned about the inability to score on the drive, her positive comment: “You know, they were on my back, I just tried to get a foul because I knew my teammates would be there to cover.” (And they were — all game!)
Although excluded late in the game with three personal faults, Senior Tri-Captain Jizzell Fernandez also had a great game on defense along with Hooyer, Huskey, Greenall, Morales, and other contributing teammates: Senior Tri-Captain Chelsea Battle, Senior Allison Baker, along with Juniors Aubrey Nunes and Isabella Anderson. Nunes had a field block and 3 ejections drawn from her set position, Anderson had a field block and 1 assist — her assist was to Baker, who had 2 steals and 2 goals in the late going to ice the game.
Additional Side Note: although I did not attend the Div III Final, (game time was same start as Div I, different venue), the Mt. Whitney Girls Varsity prevailed by a score of 8-4 over Reedley High for the school’s second Valley Title. (Their first was back in 2011).