Close to 100 water polo athletes gathered in the waters of the Steve Feaver Aquatics Center last year for the first annual North vs. South High School Senior All-Star Game. The inaugural event featured eight teams and four matches and turned longtime opponents into teammates for one final high school competition.
This year, with the 2nd annual All-Star game just two days away, the competition has been opened to even more schools from the area as the South team is set to be comprised of the best the Central California Conference has to offer while the North team will be made up from Ripon, Oakdale, Central Catholic, Ceres, Sonora High and the Modesto Metro Conference's best seniors.
“Year one was better than expected. We did it on a short time frame and it turned out really well,” Turlock Bulldogs Aquatics Booster Joe Bernardi said. “This year we have it dialed in a little more.”
“I think we might open it up to even more in the area for next year. We're only in year two and it’s an evolving process. It’ll probably be year four or five when the final version is established,” Bernardi added.
Of the nearly 100 seniors, Pitman High will have eight representatives in the pool and Turlock High will have six. The Pride's Alex Selee, Allan Quinn, Riley Silva and Stuart Backstrom will join the Bulldogs' Zachary Glidden, Jacob Johnson, Justin Souza and Alfredo Villafana on the South boys’ team. The South girls’ team will feature Pitman's Kim Canisso, Erin Tait and Jessica Kern as well as Turlock's Ellen Willming and Natalie Larson.
“The competition is going to be good. For a lot of the kids, it's their last competitive water polo game and they're going to give it their all,” Bernardi said. “In this environment, where kids don't really know each other that well and people are playing together for the first time, there's a lot more sharing of the ball. So it's really exciting.”
In addition to top notch competition, there will also be five scholarship opportunities for the participants.
The four matches are expected to run from 2 p.m. through 6 p.m. on Saturday with the girls’ second team competition starting at 2 p.m., the boys’ second team competition starting at 3 p.m., the girls’ first team competition starting at 4 p.m. and the boys’ first team competition starting at 5 p.m.
“They get to look at the top level seniors from the area for one final time, so I'd encourage them to come watch,” Bernardi said of the public. “It's a unique experience. There's no other game like it around.”