The Central California Athletic League title was on the line Monday when Pitman and Turlock highs’ varsity boys water polo squared off in a regular season showdown from the Pride pool. A Turlock win secured the outright title. A Pitman victory would trigger a tiebreaker game on Wednesday to decide the winner.
Turlock defeated Pitman 7-3 and secured the first ever CCAL title with a perfectly unblemished 10-0 record.
When Turlock High’s varsity boys water polo head coach Colin Wenstrand finished shaking hands with all his former players and new coaches at Pitman High after his team won on Monday, he walked right over to the Pride’s huddle to share some motivational words.
“I told them that I am proud of them and I love them and I hope they kick some butt in the playoffs since they haven’t been in the playoffs in a long time (10 years),” said Wenstrand.
“I am super happy we are going to the playoffs, won the first CCAL but just mainly proud of the guys,” said Wenstrand about his Bulldogs.
“We knew exactly what the situation was going into the game and we beat them in the books,” said Pitman head coach Mark Garrett. “We had 11-man ups and they only had four or five, but we didn’t capitalize on one extra man opportunity and you are not going to win a game that way and we did some poor fundamental errors that cost us and that changed the direction of the game.”
The first period saw just a single goal scored and it was the Pride who went up 1-0 after a Sean Bernard goal with 2:38 left in the first.
From there, Turlock went on to outscore Pitman 7-2, but it didn’t come without a little drama.
Pitman took a 2-0 lead with 4:15 left in the second.
Just before the half, Turlock notched a pair of goals from junior Taylor Ward who slid two powerful shots to the near right corner, first with 2:37 left and then with exactly one second left on the clock he drilled the next and the score was set at 2-2 at halftime.
“After the first half I thought it was great and then it all fell apart and they played a good game,” said Garrett. “They didn’t rattle and I thought we could rattle them, but it is okay because we made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.”
Turlock pulled away in the third after they went on a 3-0 run thanks to goals from Ward, Cole Marchy and Matt Reis.
Reis put up his second to kick off the fourth and then Ward capped off a four-goal night.
Bernard put up his second goal to cut the deficit by four goals.
Turlock ends the regular season with an overall record of 17-7 while Pitman closes it at 17-8 and 8-2 in the CCAL.
Both Turlock and Pitman advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs with the brackets and opponents yet to be determined. Check cifsjs.org for bracket updates.
“We achieved our initial goal, which was make it to playoffs so I told them that,” Garrett added. “Being Division-I, you have the Jesuits, Davis, St. Mary’s and Granite Bay, and that is tough, but if we can win the first one and make it to the second round would be great, that is where we are at.”
“You always want to win, but more importantly these games are watching my guys grow,” Wenstrand added. “These guys we had a rough patch at the beginning of the year and had some ups and downs and so to be able to pull this off, and to close the deal the way they did tonight, anything can happen water polo style.”