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Turlock, Pitman boys shine at invite
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Turlock and Pitman High took part in the Delong Invitational in Stockton and Modesto this past weekend, their last tournament of the 2012 water polo season. The Bulldogs competed in the A bracket and the Pride competed in the B bracket but both finished 3-2 after two days, giving the teams a dose of confidence before their final cross-town matchup and the end of the Central California Conference season.

Turlock’s (2-6 CCC) opening Friday consisted of matches against Nevada Union and Oakridge High. The Bulldogs capitalized on mistakes and made the best of their opportunities against Nevada Union in a heart pumping, defensive battle to start their tournament.  Turlock won 6-3 but the second match against Oakridge was a little different. Oakridge, a team that placed in the top three at the Atwater Tournament earlier in the year, orchestrated a second half surge against Turlock that left its boys splashing in the water with a 9-1 loss. The first day was split, 1-1.

“They were stoked because we had a bad Friday in our last tournament,” Turlock’s head coach Erick Richter said.

On Saturday, Turlock faced off against Ripon in a match of speed. Ripon caught the Bulldogs off guard and fought its way to an 8-2 victory. Turlock bounced back in fine form, however, crushing Orange Lutheran High 12-6 in its second match and edging out Golden West High 5-3 to end the tournament.

“Ripon woke a sleeping giant,” Richter said. “The guys were pumped for our last two matches.”

Senior Ryan Horn led a defensive effort that was instrumental in Saturday’s success.

“He was key in our two Saturday wins,” Richter said. “The guys really rallied around him; he stepped it up this weekend.”

Pitman’s (0-9 CCC) Friday played out differently than its rival’s. The Pride won their opening match against a tough Fairfield High team, 7-5, before punching in a lopsided 13-1 victory against Grace Davis High.

“We performed really well, especially in the Fairfield match,” Pitman’s head coach Ryan Bullard said.

Saturday marked the beginning of a hectic, three-game schedule for Pitman. First up was Cardinal Newman High, a team that pulled no punches and pressed the Pride in the pool. Pitman lost to Cardinal Newman 8-6, but the bitter taste of defeat served its boys well in the next match against Kimbal High. The Pride’s offense came alive to deliver a punishing 14-7 defeat to Kimbal but the effort also left their players tired. By the third and final match against Bearcreek High Pitman was exhausted, leading to a 10-5 loss and the end of the tournament.

“The first loss really motivated us for the match against Kimbal,” Bullard said. “But my kids were exhausted by the third match. They weren’t playing their type of water polo.”

Now, with no more tournaments on the schedule, Turlock and Pitman will take the lessons learned from Friday and Saturday and apply them to their game plans for the final stretch of league play.

“This tournament was big for the guys,” Richter said. “It showed that once we play together we’re ready for anything.”

“This tournament definitely gave us a good idea of where we’re at and some of the things we need to work on,” Bullard said.

The Bulldogs and Pride face off on Thursday in the final match of the year. Last time the two teams met Pitman held a commanding halftime lead but was thwarted by a second half comeback from Turlock.

“We increased our conditioning after that Turlock loss,” Bullard said. “I think we’ll be able to sub a little more this time around, so that will be a bit of a difference for us this match.”

“Both teams are doing exceptionally well this year so it’s going to be an epic game on Thursday,” Richter said.