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Battle of North and South in the pool
CCC faces off against MMC
water polo pic1
Turlock and Pitman water polo players joined together with other Central California Conference players to make up the South team at Saturday's water polo tournament against the Modesto Metro Conference players of the North team. - photo by CARA HALLAM / The Journal

Ninety-seven high school water polo players got one last chance to find victory in the pool on Saturday, at a Central California Conference versus Modesto Metro Conference showdown, held at Turlock High's Steve Feaver Aquatic Center.

Approximately 350 spectators were in attendance to watch senior CCC and MMC players showcase their talent in the four game event.

“We hope to make this an ongoing tradition to honor our seniors and bring the community together to support water polo,” said Joe Bernardi, president of Turlock Bulldogs Aquatics Boosters.

Pitman High saw a total of six participants, three girls and three boys, while Turlock had eight total representatives, three girls and five boys. The North was represented by the MMC, while the South was the CCC.

The closest match of the day was between the North and South girls 1st team as the South edged out the North by one goal in a 9-8 thriller.

Rebekah Groteguth of Turlock High led the way as she finished with a game high four goals including one steal. Goalkeeper Rakelle Ellison from Merced High had a pair of steals and seven blocks to hold off for the win.

“This is a nice way to get the seniors out here at the end of the season. Sections were last weekend and we plan to do this every year on the Saturday after section finals,” Bernardi said.

Sonja Raynes, who is also the Turlock girls water polo head coach, coached the South girls 2nd team, who were upset by the North, 4-6.

“The great thing about this event is that it is meant to be fun. There’s not as much pressure, but you can still come and play hard,” Raynes said.

The girls played the best they could, but the North was too much to handle as Carly Wickman of Downey notched four goals to lead all players. Turlock’s Ashley Johnson grabbed two steals while goalkeeper Jennifer Mello blocked nine shots along with one steal.

“I think this event is great for camaraderie, for all the teams to come together. It provides a place for them to get to know each other and create positive memories for them,” Raynes added.

The boy’s 1st team matchup proved to be an exciting one as the South dominated the North, putting on a scoring frenzy, walloping the North in a 20-8 showing.

The South was led by Turlock representative Nick Ogden, who netted four goals, and Atwater's Josh Heller, who notched five. Also from Turlock High was Marcelino Ramirez, who finished with three steals. Cameron Sondeno of Pitman had one steal for the game. 

“We’ve had good sportsmanship turnout. We recruited all the top seniors in the valley for this inaugural North versus South water polo game, along with the top coaches,” Bernardi said. “It’s great to bring everyone together.”

In the boys 2nd team matchup, things did not change much as it was the South that topped the North again, 18-9.

It was Ben Peterson of Merced that finished with a game high seven goals to lead the team.

CJ Cossey, Dario Torres and David Rocha of Turlock were huge assets as they each came away with at least a goal each, Cossey topping all Bulldogs with three of his own and adding three assists. Andrew Cutler from Pitman added one assist and a steal.

“We couldn’t have done it without all the support and help we received from our local sponsors,” Bernardi said.

Next year’s all-star match is scheduled for Nov. 22, 2014.