The other day, Turlock High boys water polo coach Steve Feaver was struck speechless when his players asked him a question.
“When was the last time we were undefeated?” they inquired.
He did not know the answer. However, the glory of perfection in the Central California Conference seemed like a distant shot when Pitman High had a two-goal lead to start the teams’ rivalry meeting at the Pitman pool on Thursday night. But there’s a catch: Like their opponents, the Bulldogs started the game with seniors to honor the regular season finale.
Once Feaver inserted his usual starters, the Bulldogs began to prevail, though it must be said now that Turlock’s 8-6 win wasn’t very easy to accomplish. Nonetheless, Turlock’s legendary coach — the one responsible for bringing the sport of water polo to town — would later figure out the answer to his team’s perfect run.
The Bulldogs’ 10-0 dominance in the CCC is only the fourth undefeated record in school history, which spans 38 years, all under Feaver.
This means Turlock owns 14 CCC championships, with the previous one being in 2007.
Now, the Bulldogs are thinking about the postseason, as they’re the No. 1 seed in the CCC and will face Napa High of the Monticello Empire League in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Tournament on Nov. 5 at 3 p.m. at Johansen High in Modesto.
“Our league is so strong that I don’t think any coach felt that anyone could go undefeated,” Feaver said. “We thought maybe you can lose one or two games and still be a league champion. We were fortunate. Our kids rose to the occasion every week, every game.”
That attitude didn’t falter against Pitman, which forced 4-4 and 5-5 ties before halftime and the fourth period, respectively.
But Morley Baker scored two of his team-leading four goals in the final period, with his second one just beating the shot clock to make it the final score of 8-6. Senior Chris Callahan, coming off a shoulder injury that was thought to be season-ending, knocked in a pair of goals in his first time back since the fateful Atwater High game on Sept. 28. And goalie Neil Wraske contributed with eight saves on the evening.
The Pride made it interesting with the play of Beau Powell (four goals) and Quinten Day (two goals), while Zach Hazelwood finished with 12 saves.
For the Bulldogs (20-6 overall), they’re looking ahead to next week, when playoffs begin. Feaver is happy to have Callahan back, who, Feaver said, isn’t expected to return to his old self anytime soon since he’s still healing from shoulder surgery. But it’s nice, the Bulldogs say, to have another threat on a team that achieved a rare feat this season.
In fact, the 1990 Bulldogs did not go undefeated in the CCC during their Section championship run that year.
“Coach was telling us that he doesn’t have too many undefeated teams,” said Baker, Turlock’s leading scorer on Thursday, “but it’s a good feeling to be one of those. I know we had a good chance at getting a championship, but I didn’t think we’d go undefeated.”
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