By YHS Correspondent —
OAKHURST — The Yosemite High School boys and girls water polo teams are finally back in the pool.
Hazardous air quality caused by smoke from the Ferguson Fire cost the teams more than two weeks of practice at the YHS pool, forcing them to improvise. During the fire, the teams held dry-land practices in the YHS gym, and got some precious pool time thanks to Tenaya Lodge.
Photos courtesy of Kelley Nelson
“I took a chance and called Tenaya Lodge to ask if we could use their indoor pool,” says first year head coach Erin Capuchino. “They were happy to let us swim and we are so thankful to them.”
Capuchino is coaching both the boys and girls teams and is enjoying the challenge. She runs the boys practice before school, and the girls after. “Our teams look great,” Capuchino says. “We have some great leaders.”
Among those leaders on the boys team are last year’s team MVP, senior Sage Crosswhite, and junior goalie Nathaniel Mulkey, who has started in goal since his freshman year.
Other returning players include Josh Johnson, Colby Stewart, Joe Dudley, Joe Sandifer, Lason Andrews, Matthew Spear, and Michael Bhalla. The boys are hoping to build on recent success.
“We would like to get to the playoffs for a third straight year,” says Mulkey.
Crosswhite believes that goal is within reach, adding, “We have a lot of guys who can flat out swim, and that’s what is going to help us late in games.”
Both Mulkey and Crosswhite noted newcomer Antonio Conti, a freshman, as a player ready to contribute on varsity.
“Antonio is a natural born athlete and he is going to be a big component to this team,” says Crosswhite.
Other new players this year include Avery Bunnell, Colton Beckstead, Levi Ashton, Sean Glitch, Tristan Wheeler and Xander Mohler.
The boys began their season with scrimmages against Bullard, Sunnyside and Hoover, entering the scrimmages (which do not count on the teams’ records) with only a few full practices under their belts. They still managed to dominate against Sunnyside and played well against Hoover, though they could not keep up with Bullard.
The regular season began Tuesday, Aug. 21, with a home contest against Hoover. Hoover was a different team when it counted, defeating YHS 14-3. Mulkey played well, particularly in the second half, which helped keep the score from being even more lopsided. Crosswhite, Stewart and Johnson each scored for Yosemite, but the lack of practice time and conditioning was clearly a factor for the YHS team.
Girls defeat Hoover in home opener
The YHS girls’ team also opened their season against Hoover at home on Tuesday and fared better, winning 18-6.
Returning North Sequoia League MVP and First Team All CIF Central Section player Sophie McGoldrick, a senior, led the way with seven goals, but all starters played well, an impressive feat for a team that has had so little time to practice and condition.
Sophomore goalie Faith Spangler, who had an excellent year in goal as a freshman in 2017, showed off her expanded range and a stronger arm, shutting down any hope Hoover had of keeping the game close by saving 15 shots.
Senior Abby Williams looked particularly sharp with 3 goals and aggressive play on both offense and defense.
McGoldrick says of Williams: “It is already apparent that Abby has grown as a player and will play a huge role in our success.”
The team’s other returning First Team All CIF Central Section player, Grace Fries, also a senior, displayed her all-round game with 3 steals, 3 assists and 2 goals.
Senior Randi Johnson, a standout swimmer who holds multiple swim records at YHS and is a four-year varsity water polo player, was the fastest player in the pool and caused havoc for Hoover with 4 steals, 2 assists and 2 goals.
Returning players Josiah Waltner and Loralee Bergdall also scored for the Badgers. Several players noted freshman Clover Cicoletti, who scored twice coming off the bench in her very first water polo match.
“Clover has surprised us,’ says McGoldrick. “She is very strong and is learning the game very quickly.”
Completing the roster are returning players Makayla Cunnings and Ruby Smith, and newcomers Cleo Norlander and Ulyana Nelson.
With so many talented returning players (the girls lost only two seniors from last year’s team), there are high expectations for the girls. They lost in the CIF Central Section semi-finals last year to Sierra Pacific in Hanford, and would love a second chance at getting to the CIF title game.
Williams states: “This team could do some special things. We know where we want to end up, and we just have to put in the work needed to get there.”
Senior starter Macy Bazzar agrees: “I expect our team to make it further than we ever have.”
Thanks to recent graduate Carina Lusk, both the boys and girls teams are enjoying new goals. Lusk’s senior project last year raised money to purchase the badly needed goals, which are much appreciated by all the players and Coach Capuchino.
All players interviewed expressed how much they enjoy playing for Capuchino, who was quick to deflect praise. She instead mentions her gratitude to two recent YHS grads, Dylan Thacker and Peter McLane, for their assistance.
“Being the only coach means I have a lot on my shoulders, which is why I am so thankful to Dylan for helping coach and Peter for offering guidance and helping me plan practices before he went back to college. They were both great players at YHS and they have contributed a lot to our team.”
Those interested in having a sponsorship banner hanging at the YHS pool should contact Erin Capuchino at firstname.lastname@example.org. The funds raised from the banner sales are used to pay tournament entry fees and replace outdated equipment. Those interested in following the program and seeing more photos of game action can join the Facebook group called, “YHS Water Polo.”
Both the boys and girls teams play Friday, Aug. 24 at Golden Valley High School in Merced, and at home on Tuesday, Sept. 4 against Tulare Western High School.