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Atwater boys polo spoils league opener for Pitman
Pitman boys polo 2
Connor Norton of Atwater (10) and Pitmans Josh Buck (5) battle for possession of the ball during a scuffle in Thursdays league contest. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Atwater High's goalkeeper Vince Baraldi and Connor Norton sank Pitman High's hopes for a win in their league opener at home on Thursday afternoon.

Atwater showcased their talented squad through the first three periods of play and did not allow the Pride to develop much on offense, providing some harsh defensive tactics.

The Pride's Josh Buck and his teammates had enough after a rough start and outscored the Falcons 6-5 in the fourth but the Pride still ultimately fell to the Falcons, 9-14.

“They are a fast team with a big pool so it was important to stay pressed against these guys because we did not want to get into a swim meet with these guys,” said Atwater head coach David Svendsen. “They are a fast team and they are well coached.”

“I think a large part of it was that Atwater did a great job of coming out and pressing us really hard and we just folded under that pressure,” said Pitman Coach Ryan Bullard. “We weren't swimming, talking, really anything that we’ve been doing recently. None of it appeared and they had a very good defense and we did not adjust.”

It took over 21 minutes of play for the Pride to strike any sort of spark after their uncharacteristic kickoff. From the onset, things did not look good for the Pride after Atwater notched a goal after 1:15 of play.

The pressure of the Atwater defense was evident in their arsenal of attacks against Pitman, consistently attacking the ball when Pitman looked to strike offensively or create a counter attack.

“I can’t say enough about the job that all six guys did, we play team defense. We press all six guys and then the goalie takes care of the rest,” Svendsen said. “Our defense feeds into our offense. I told our guys that if you play tough press defense then it will be very easy to play offense.”

It made it very easy for the Falcons and even more exhausting for the Pride, who seemed to have no answers for the amounts of turnovers the Falcons had forced the Pride into.

“Atwater executed a full press. They got down the lanes and pushed really hard and we didn't do a good job of trying to open up the pool and aid anybody that had the ball,” Bullard said. “It hurt us a lot offensively because we burn through the shot clock and took last minute shots and then get back to defense where they scored.”

The Atwater defense was efficient in all phases of the game, committing 13 steals after three periods.

In the fourth, the Pride went down by as much as 11-3 then Pitman went on to score six of the final nine goals.

Pitman's top scorer was Buck with four goals, notching three in the fourth along with an assist.

“I think it’s a positive thing as much as Buck did an amazing job. He will need somebody else to step up and help us,” Bullard added. “I think our defense did ok and we had some nice plays, but with those individual pieces we never really could get it all together and create goals on the board.”

Baraldi finished with 11 saves, and Norton notched a game-high five goals and the Falcons held on for the first league win of the year, handing Pitman their first loss of the season in league play.

Pitman's next contest is slated for an away game against Golden Valley at 4 p.m. Thursday.