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YHS Girls And Boys Water Polo Pick Up Key Wins

Grace Fries

By YHS Correspondent — 

OAKHURST — Yosemite High School girls water polo got an exciting win at Golden Valley High School in Merced on Aug. 24.

After a strong first half by the Lady Badgers, Golden Valley clawed its way back into the game, trailing only 8-6 at the end of the third period. As the fourth period began Yosemite’s second-leading scorer, Grace Fries, committed her third personal foul, resulting in her disqualification from the match. With the Badgers down a starter already (Josiah Waltner left the game in the first half with an injury), the Golden Valley crowd sensed their team would seize the moment and surge ahead when Fries exited.

Photos by Kelley Nelson – click to enlarge

Sofie McGoldrick

But seniors Sophie McGoldrick and Randi Johnson did not let that happen. McGoldrick scored three times in the final period and Johnson twice as the Badgers pushed to a 14-11 victory, avenging last year’s one-point loss at Golden Valley. A strong contingent of Badger fans who made the trip to Merced roared with each goal scored down the stretch, and there was a buzz of excitement among fans and players alike after the hotly contested game.

In the decisive fourth quarter, Johnson used her speed to capitalize when Golden Valley double-teamed McGoldrick in the “hole.”  The offensive player who plays closest to the opposing teams’ goal is called the “hole set,” McGoldrick’s usual position, akin to a center in basketball. Seeing McGoldrick double-teamed in front of the goal, Johnson attacked from the wing for her two critical goals in the fourth.

“We were down two starters,” says Johnson. “But we have a team of strong players who can rally together. We all just went out and did our jobs to the best of our abilities.”

McGoldrick finished with nine goals and also had four steals. Fries had four assists to go with her three goals.

Goalie Faith Spangler saved 13 shots, including several clutch saves during the tight fourth quarter. Abby Williams and Loralee Bergdall played tough defense on Golden Valley’s two best players, limiting them enough for the Badgers to keep their lead throughout the game.

“Abby and Loralee never let Golden Valley’s stronger players get past them,” notes Coach Erin Capuchino.

Boys bounce back

The Badger boys team came out against Golden Valley determined to improve upon their prior showing in the season opener and — did they ever — winning 13-9.

YHS controlled GV from the start with sharp passing and execution on offense, aggressiveness on defense that had been lacking in their season opener, and some excellent saves from goalie Nathaniel Mulkey (13 saves on the night).

Sage Crosswhite finished with six goals, a couple of which came from distance after he made nifty moves to create space to shoot. He also had three steals. Lason Andrews had his best game as a Badger, scoring four goals and showing signs of becoming a force on offense.

Josh Johnson

Junior starter Josh Johnson, a gifted swimmer who seems to move effortlessly through the water, was always near the action. In one critical stretch in the third period when the outcome of the game was still in doubt, Johnson stayed in the pool with the second unit while most starters grabbed a breather on the bench.

Johnson dominated on both ends as the Badgers maintained their lead while key players like Crosswhite, Jacob Conti and Colby Stewart rested. When the remainder of the starting unit returned, they coasted to victory.

Stewart was his usual aggressive self throughout the contest, snagging three steals and playing physical defense.

“It’s a physical sport,” says Stewart, a sophomore. “Someone puts their hands on you, you need to put your hands on them. That’s the way it is.”

Johnson and starter Joe Dudley each scored for YHS, and freshman Antonio Conti got the first goal of his high school career.

“I was incredibly impressed with our whole team at Golden Valley,” Coach Capuchino states.

Boys gain experience in tournament play, lose close one at home, dominate Mission Oak

Matt Dudley

The boys next played in a tournament at Fresno High School, where they encountered some of the better teams in the Central Valley. They were overmatched against Buchanan and San Joaquin Memorial, lost a close one against Madera, and then beat Selma.

“I saw a lot of improvement, especially from the boys who are new to the team,” Coach Capuchino says.

Levi Ashton, a freshman, got the first goal of his career against Selma, and Crosswhite stood out again for the Badgers.

Both the boys and girls teams played Tulare Western on Sept. 4 at YHS. The boys game was close throughout, and for a time it looked as though they would come from behind to beat Tulare Western before ultimately falling 15-13.

Mulkey, nursing an ailing shoulder, sat out the first half, giving Matt Dudley his first start in goal. Dudley made eight saves in the first half and kept the game close with the Badgers trailing 9-7 at the break. As usual, Crosswhite was a force on offense, scoring six goals. The ball touches Crosswhite’s hands on almost every offensive possession, as he is the most skilled offensive player on the team.

Josh Johnson followed his solid outing against Golden Valley with three goals, Stewart had two and Andrews one.  Sophomore starter Jacob Conti played very well, scoring twice and assisting on two other goals. One of Conti’s goals came on a strong, accurate throw from very long-distance. It wasn’t enough, though, as Tulare Western kept pace until the very end.

The boys turned around on Sept. 6 and dominated Mission Oak High School at home, winning 23-16. Andrews scored seven times, Johnson six, and Crosswhite four to lead the Badgers, who are now 3-5 on the season and rounding into form as league play approaches.

Girls improve to 4-0 with wins over Tulare Western and Mission Oak

The girls were tested early against Tulare Western, leading only 6-4 at halftime. Tulare got within one in the third quarter, catching the Badgers napping on defense for two easy goals. The Badgers soon fixed that problem and their team defense took over the game, leading YHS to a 14-6 victory.

In the critical stretch where the Badgers pulled away, they swarmed Tulare’s better players every time they touched the ball. McGoldrick finished with six goals and seven steals, Fries had five goals, Johnson had a goal and three steals, Bergdall had four steals and a goal, and Williams played another solid game with two steals, three assists and a goal.  Senior starter Macy Bazzar contributed two steals, an assist and solid defense on the perimeter.

The number of team steals (16) made it a relatively smooth night in goal for Spangler, who finished with nine saves.

The girls then beat Mission Oak 14-13, holding off a late charge from the Tulare school. McGoldrick scored eight goals, Fries had four and Johnson two. The win moves the Lady Badgers to 4-0 on the season.

The next home game for both the boys and girls teams is Thursday, Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. at the YHS pool.

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