It is no surprise that the Turlock High varsity boys water polo team has high expectations for 2017.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 2016 campaign where they boasted a 9-3 record in the Central California Conference, placing them in second in the league rankings. They came away with a surprising road playoff victory in the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section tournament as the No. 9 seed, toppling No. 8 Bella Vista in a 6-5 victory back on Nov. 1, 2016. They fell to No. 1 Davis in the next round, 12-2, but not before leaving with the experience and a herd of returners for this year.
“I have heard them chatting about the competition and upcoming season and they are expecting to be competitive,” said co varsity coach Sonja Raynes, “which is good because they need that motivation. If there is no motivation, then you won’t get very far, so I am looking forward to that.”
Along with the help of co-coach Anne Cornell, Raynes and her former teammate in high school have become facilitators for success.
“There is talent... no doubt about that, the trick is working the talent together and not as individuals but together. Some of it might mean passing the ball rather than taking a shot,” said Raynes. “I stressed that we need to take higher percentage shots.”
A league title is very possible for the upcoming season but the squad knows it will have to rely on a plethora of talent that is returning, led by Dylan Bernardi and Brandon Dhanowa.
Bernardi will be one of the strongest field players, according to Raynes, and at goalkeeper Dhanowa might be one of the best in the CCC as a junior.
“Brandon is also a team leader in the cage, speaks very well and gets team members in great spots,” said Raynes.
Trent Coffey is also returning and should help on defense with his speed, while Noah Benson and Matthew Hesse are key to the team's success as well.
At this point it is about getting the team to come together said Raynes.
“That is the job getting everyone to play together, but I think we can do it,” said Raynes. “I want them to pass it off and finish the plays. I know we can play strong and we should be able to, but I also want to play smart. If we add that to teamwork, then we are looking like we are looking to be real competitive.”
Turlock will host their Alumni Game prior to the start of the season at 2 p.m. Aug. 19.