OAKHURST — YHS Boys Water Polo improved to 4-2 in the North Sequoia League (NSL) and 9-9 overall, avenging close losses to Chowchilla and Sierra with an easy win at Chowchilla (12-3) and a convincing defeat of Sierra (11-7) at home on Oct. 4.
BOYS TIED FOR FIRST IN NORTH SEQUOIA LEAGUE
Their other league wins have come against Kerman. Starting goalie Nathaniel Mulkey missed a few games while attending the graduation of his older brother, YHS graduate and former Badger water polo and swim standout Aaron Mulkey, from the US Coast Guard’s elite National Search and Rescue School. The younger Mulkey’s return, coupled with overall improvement of team chemistry, led to the bounce-back wins over Chowchilla and Sierra. All three teams are now tied for first in the NSL with six games remaining. Their coach likes what she sees.
“I am so impressed and proud of the growth our boys have showed over the past few weeks.,” says head coach Erin Capuchino. “They see what doesn’t work and spend the next practice fixing it. They have fun while working hard.”
The win over Sierra was particularly impressive, as Sierra has been on top of the NSL and undefeated against the Badgers for over 5 years. Sierra always boasts a number of strong athletes who look as if they’ve been plucked from the football field and dropped in the pool. No matter — the Badgers showed resolve in finally bringing down the Chieftains by leading from start to finish. Mulkey made a number of tough saves of powerful shots on goal, and captain Sage Crosswhite, the only senior on the team, directed the offense. Coach Capuchino was delighted.
“The win over Sierra was somewhat historic. We have been training hard to get that W! Not only was it a huge win, it also put our team back in position to go to playoffs.”
Crosswhite has 72 goals on the season, which ranks 1st in the NSL, 8th in the Central Section and 17th in the state. Mulkey is 10th in the Central Section in saves. But it is far from a two-man show: the Badgers have 5 of the top 10 scorers in the NSL. Besides Crosswhite at number 1, Josh Johnson is 5th in goals scored in the NSL, while Lasen Andrews, Jacob Conti and Colby Stewart are 8th, 9th and 10th, respectively.
The boys play at home on Tuesday, Oct. 9 and Thursday, Oct. 11 against Kerman and Chowchilla. Their games start at 5 p.m.
YHS GIRLS REMAIN UNDEFEATED
While the boys have provided some exciting games, the YHS girls team is decimating its opponents. The girls are now 6-0 in the NSL, having beaten Sierra, Kerman and Chowchilla twice each, and are 16-0 overall. They have scored 280 goals as a team, while conceding only 68, meaning they are winning games by an average of 13 goals. In late September, they tore through a tournament at Golden Valley High in Merced, defeating North Valley schools Livingston, Downey, Johansen and Downey again in the championship game to win the title with relative ease.
While co-captain Sophia McGoldrick gets much-deserved attention for leading the state of California in goals for the second year in a row (101 goals so far), this year’s team has talent at all positions. Co-captain Grace Fries is 10th in the state in goals with 61, Abby Williams has excellent command of the offense and is the team leader in assists (31, good for 4th in the Central Section), and Randi Johnson has added new moves to her offensive arsenal, including a left-handed volleyball-style spike for a key goal against Downey in the tournament championship.
One can be forgiven for occasionally forgetting how good goalie Faith Spangler is because of how many steals the team has — sometimes a whole quarter goes by without the opponent even getting a shot off — but when someone does get open to take a shot, Spangler reminds everyone that she, too, is a force.
She is far and away the best goalie in the NSL, and ranks third in the Central Section with 134 saves on the season. Only a sophomore, she seems to grow stronger each game.
“I am enjoying this season very much,” Spangler says. “I’d have to say my favorite part is right before a game when our whole team is warming up together — we all laugh and joke around and it’s not stressful like you might expect.”
How does she remain focused with such strong team defense in front of her? Simple. “By never losing sight of the ball. My eyes are always on the ball.”
The girls also have home games at the YHS pool against Kerman on Tuesday Oct. 9 and Chowchilla on Thursday Oct. 10. Girls’ games begin at 4 p.m.
Note: Water polo is a winter sport south of the Grapevine, so state statistics reflect schools north of the Grapevine.