There was no shortage of motivation Thursday night when Turlock High traveled across town to face Pitman High in the final water polo match of the Central California Conference season. In addition to the in-town rivalry, the Bulldogs were eager to erase the memories from their last meeting with the Pride. Above all, however, Turlock wanted a win to keep its post-season hopes alive.
“The guys lit up when they found out there was a playoff possibility,” Turlock’s head coach Erich Richter said. “It drove them to want to do better.”
Turlock’s drive was out in the open for everyone to see in the beginning of the match. Garret Roof swam like a man possessed in the first quarter, scoring a total of four goals within the first five minutes of regulation. Nick Odgen provided another first-quarter goal for Turlock to make the score 5-0 at the beginning of the second.
“The first game we played was a wakeup call and it really motivated us this time around,” Richter said.
Pitman responded with a phenomenal second quarter, matching Turlock’s first quarter with a five goal effort of its own. Sophomores Allen Quinn and Alex Steeley scored once and twice, respectively, in their first varsity match while Ian Belloli provided two goals of his own, tying it up at the half.
“I don’t know what clicked in the second quarter,” Pitman’s head coach Ryan Bullard said. “I think they just wanted t make it a good game.”
After halftime Turlock continued to play fundamental water polo on its way to another five goal quarter. This time around Blake Phillips led the charge with four goals and was assisted by Dario Torres with the fifth. Pitman was shut out for the entirety of the third quarter and a majority of the fourth before scoring its final two goals off the hands of Max Rodriguez and Michael Montalvo in the final minutes. The final score was 10-7.
“We promoted two JV players and they contributed in a high pressure game,” Bullard said. “The game gave us a good outlook of what our future is going to look like.”
“It goes to show that you can’t take anybody in this league lightly at all,” Richter said. “You can never take Pitman lightly. It was an epic game and the way you want to end a season.”
The Bulldog victory put them in a three-way tie for third place in the CCC with Golden Valley and Buhach Colony High, setting up a coin toss decision for the third seed in the Division I San Joaquin Section Playoffs. The coin was flipped Friday afternoon and landed in favor of the Thunder, putting an abrupt end to Turlock’s 2012 campaign, much to the disappointment of the players and coaches.
“It should have never come down to a coin toss,” Richter said. “But it is what it is and we’re looking forward to next year.”