Thursday was a must-win for the Turlock varsity boys’ water polo team as they hosted first place Merced High and what resulted was one of the most exciting and longest games of the season.
It took five overtimes for the conclusion of Thursday’ Central California Conference matchup between the Bulldogs and Bears, who came out with a strong determination to fight till the end—and they did.
Jared Bernardi and Trent Yandell scored four goals apiece for Turlock after each side notched over a dozen goals each by the end of regulation.
After an intense first four periods of overtime only two goals were scored by each side with each defense executing their jobs nearly flawlessly.
Finally after both sides were fighting for the lead in the fifth period of extra time, Sam Kuykendall found the net wide open after Abraham Santana found his teammate open from the opposite end and with 2:06 on the clock, the golden goal was struck for the 15-14 win.
“We have not been playing so sharp lately and I think that carried over a little bit, but overall I am pleased. But there were moments here and there where they got us,” said Turlock head coach Aaron Weiss, whose team is now 6-3 in the CCC.
This loss also marks the first time that the Bulldogs have fallen in back-to-back games this season amassing a 17-4 overall posting.
The lead constantly changed on Thursday with each side going up on one another throughout the entire game.
Turlock found a lead early on in the second period before Merced tied it at the half at 7-7.
Merced rallied in the third to a 3-1 run and headed into the fourth with a two goal lead before the resurrection occurred for the Bulldogs.
A spark triggered the ‘Dogs to go on a big run in the fourth, eventually tying it at 12 all after Dylan Bernardi tied the game in the final minute with his goal.
“I knew they would play hard. I was not worried about that, it was just about executing the right way. That was the question because they always play hard,” said Weiss of his team.
Yandell struck the next goal in the first period of overtime to go up 13-12, but Merced went on to outscore Turlock 2-1 before the end of the second period, forcing extra time.
“You can see how disappointed they were but it wasn’t in the cards for us tonight. I don’t know what else to say,” Weiss added. “Merced played well and they deserve the win. I think whoever had the ball last would win it.”
The game stayed a stalemate for the next seven minutes until finally Merced found their final shot opportunity from Kuykendall after Santana found him open with a solid pass, edging out Turlock.
“I have seen us play better but that seems to be what we have lacked, consistency, but it showed today,” Weiss added. “I am really proud of our guys because they did work hard and tried hard but I just think we missed a few shots here and there honestly, I don’t think we played bad but I think we missed some opportunities.”
Turlock and Pitman will square off on the pool for the final time this season at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“We have one more against Pitman and another must-win even though I thought this was our must-win but we will see what happens,” said Weiss. “Pitman will be fired up, especially since it might be their last game this year.”