The halfway mark of league play came to a conclusion on Monday night when Pitman's varsity boys water polo squad hosted Turlock High in their first clash of the season.
The Pride scored first and then added a second one quickly, ending the half in a close contest, but after a lopsided third period, the Bulldogs of Turlock managed to edge out the Pride in a 9-2 final.
“We are doing better at this point than last year,” said Pitman head coach Colin Wenstrand. “I think going into a game like this, with our history and their history, we tried to take advantage of that as an opportunity and I think we came out in the first and played pretty well.”
“This concludes the first half of league and so far, we are not looking too bad,” said Turlock head coach Sonja Raynes. “I also know there are three seeds for playoffs, so we should hopefully be in the mix. We have goals in mind but it is just one game at a time.”
That mentality has led the Bulldogs to a 5-1 start in the CCC after this victory, while Pitman dropped to 1-5.
“We were a little slow to start tonight, but then we got in our groove again,” said Raynes.
Pitman, however, got the better end early on and managed to contain the 'Dogs offense in the early minutes of the fourth.
Andree Shields of Pitman put the Pride on the board with the first strike just under 35 seconds into the game.
Turlock responded with a goal of their own a little over two minutes later when Cole Marchy put the first in for the 'Dogs to tie it at 1-1. Shields added the team's second and final goal with 2:53 left in the first to go up 2-1, giving the Pride a lead once again.
Martin Puentes of Turlock didn't leave the game without dramatizing it a bit after he tied it for a second time in the same period with 24 seconds left at 2-2.
Turlock's Matt Hesse broke the tie less than one minute into the second with his first of three goals to go up 3-2, and exactly two minutes later Puentes put in his second and final goal, extending the lead to 4-2. Hesse drilled a goal with 2:15 left in the second and the 'Dogs went up 5-2 at the half.
“We firmly believed the game was up for the taking after the second,” said Wenstrand. “The third unfortunately got away from us so the goal going into the fourth was to hold them to seven. We adjusted our defense.”
Hesse put in his third and final goal in the third and Noah Benson lobbed the seventh score for Turlock with 37 remaining.
For the next four and a half minutes, the defenses took over.
A stalemate caused both sides to sway momentum back and forth, with physical plays that led to missed penalty shots from Pitman, one in the third and the other in the fourth.
The Pride also saw multiple shots hit off the top cross-bar and a few open looks sailing wide away.
“We played well, we just missed the late penalty shot,” said Wenstrand. “If we make both our penalty shots and some shots that hit the post, it's a closer game. So, the opportunities were there, so it feels good we had our opportunities against a team like Turlock, that is great.”
“I don't think we were looking past things,” said Raynes. “But this is a bigger pool and our players were unfamiliar with the Pitman players, so we had to adjust and get into a rhythm but I do like the big pool, it suits us.”
In the fourth, despite constant pressure and tough defense by Pitman, the 'Dogs capitalized on two chances and put the game out of reach with a seven-goal difference.
“We are going to be making adjustments on our offensive and defensive schemes in the second half of league,” Wenstrand added. “For the most part I am happy with how we played in the first half, third not so much, but not enough we need to get going on offense.”
“Second time around is always more challenging because you have to assume all teams are getting better since we got better as well,” Raynes added. “So, you can't look past that and we need to play our game. I think we are capable of that and we are looking forward to the second half.”
Turlock will next host El Capitan at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Pitman will travel to take on Atwater at 5 p.m. Wednesday.