MODESTO — In Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I opening round match against Modesto High, there was a sequence that made veteran Turlock High boys water polo coach Steve Feaver think, “Oh, wow.”
It happened near the end of the second period, when the Bulldogs were down two defenders. Usually, when a team is on the defensive, the players give up an easy goal. Not this time.
Senior goalkeeper Neil Wraske knocked down three shots in that sequence, en route to a 15-block performance to help the Bulldogs, the top seed in the Central California Conference, to an easy 18-5 win over the Panthers at the Johansen High pool.
Turlock moves on face Oak Ridge High in today’s quarterfinal match at Tokay High in Lodi at 1 p.m. That’s the same opponent that eliminated the Bulldogs in last season’s quarterfinals, in a one-goal defeat.
The Bulldogs expect a tough match again.
Entering Saturday’s match, they didn’t take their opponents lightly. It was a 1-1 tie early on before the Bulldogs made the contest into a shooting clinic, taking a 10-3 lead into halftime. The Panthers, the second seed in the Modesto Metro Conference, were not a threat throughout the afternoon.
“We knew we could have been in a competitive game,” Feaver said, “but our guys rose to the occasion. I was pleased with how we started.”
Morley Baker played a major role in Turlock’s shooting clinic, as he posted seven goals to Patrick O’Connor’s four goals and five steals of a performance. Joel Geiger and Blake Weaver each added two goals, and Blake Phillips finished with four steals and three assists.
It didn’t matter who they were facing. The Bulldogs were ready.
“Coming in,” Wraske said, “we knew we had to control the defense and take it to them on offense. And that’s what we did.”
“We wanted to make sure were establishing ourselves as a team that earned our spot and deserve to be here,” Feaver added.
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