With his lightning quick speed, Morley Baker won the opening match swim-off to give his Turlock High boys water polo team an early advantage. He then passed the ball to the trailer, who sent it to the middle of the pool to Antovan Davtians.
Davtians returned the ball to a streaking Baker on the right side, where he out-sprinted his defender to score a goal just 9 seconds in.
“That was a good sign of things to come,” said Turlock coach Steve Feaver, who has seen probably a million goals in his lifetime but not many that early in the match. “We work on that in practice but it doesn’t happen that well. Everything we did today, we did well.”
What also surprised the longtime coach was Thursday’s Central California Conference score: 15-4. A bigger surprise was the Bulldogs’ opponent: Merced High, an annual league contender. The last time the two teams met, Turlock escaped with a 15-12 win.
This time, the Bulldogs held a 10-0 halftime lead before the Bears (5-4 CCC) scored their first goal 30 seconds into the third period. After that, Turlock was well in charge and just kept rolling, with defensive stops and impressive goals — including a couple of water polo’s versions of the alley-oop, where, for example, Baker tosses the ball in front of the net and Patrick O’Connor (three goals) pops up from the water and sends in the score with one hand.
“We came into the game knowing a lot was riding on” the Bears, said Baker, who finished with a match-high five goals. “We knew we had to play well together as a team and come together for the win.”
The Bulldogs are just one victory from back-to-back undefeated league seasons, though they secured an outright title with last Thursday’s win over Merced. In their way is Pitman High, which comes into the Steve Feaver Aquatic Center on Thursday night of next week with a 7-2 league record.
Feaver and his Bulldogs did not expect that big of a win over Merced.
They looked unstoppable from the moment Baker won the swim-off. Davtians, one of Turlock’s top defenders, collected five of his seven steals in the first 5 minutes. During that stretch, goalie Neil Wraske and his nearly 80-inch wingspan recorded four of his 12 saves. That prevented the Bears from ever being in the match.
More scoring came, as Hunter Mangrum and Joel Geiger contributed with two goals apiece and Davtians, Blake Weaver and Travis Garris each had a goal.
“Our kids were nervous when they started,” said Feaver, whose Bulldogs are competing in this weekend’s DeLong Tournament. “That nervousness turned into adrenaline, and that adrenaline turned into energy that we used to start the game.”
After that, they couldn’t be stopped.
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