MaxPreps has Tulare Western ranked No. 13 best team in state following their 13-2 start to the season
TULARE – There’s not many teams that can claim the phrase “started from the bottom now we’re here,” more than the Tulare Western girls water polo program. The team has struggled to stay above .500 over the last decade, with a handful of winless seasons, but now they’re one of the best teams in the entire state.
The Mustangs opened the season by winning their first 12 games, en route to their current 13-2 record. Of the 212 teams ranked on MaxPreps, Tulare Western is currently ranked as the 13th best team in the state. Clovis West and Clovis, respectively, are the only Central Valley teams ranked ahead of them.
Head coach Jenna McGuire took over the team in 2013 after the program had endured multiple winless seasons. It took a while for the culture to change as the team only won three games in her first four seasons, but the seeds of growth she has planted over the years are finally beginning to sprout.
“When I took over as head coach, Tulare Western was probably at the bottom of Division III, and we have built this program. We’ve had girls that swim and play club who are really dedicated, and I think we’re finally starting to see that pay off,” McGuire said. “The movement of this team is that hard work really does pay off, because we have girls that have really dedicated their lives to playing water polo. And that has made a huge difference in the mentality and the skill level of our play.”
As a result of their dedication, the team has a variety of players that can disrupt their opponent’s game plan. In the past, the team has relied on one or two really good players which is easy for other teams to strategize against. This year, McGuire believes that the entire team is playing at a high level.
“If people think they’re going to double team one girl, it opens up another strong girl,” she said. “Every single girl is really strong; I think it’s a hard offense to really counteract.”
If there’s any particular player that other teams will try to neutralize, it’ll likely be Nicole Tristao, Devon Cardoza or Olivia Machado who are the team’s leaders in goals. The Mustangs are currently outscoring opponents by an astounding margin of 254-98, but they will have to take it to a new level if they want to compete for their first East Yosemite League (EYL) championship.
The EYL is filled with tough competition, including the last two Division II Valley Champions. On Monday night they lost their opening league match to a stout Garces Memorial team that is currently 7-2. The Rams are the reigning EYL champions and reigning Division II Valley Champions. Next on the Mustangs schedule is a meeting with Porterville tonight at 6:30 p.m. The Panthers were the 2018 EYL Champions, tied for first in 2017 and were the 2018 Division II Valley Champions. Next Wednesday they’ll travel to Monache, a team that tied with Porterville as league champs in 2017, and they went on to lose by one point to Redwood in the Valley Championship that season.