Strathmore boys water polo wins back-to-back EYL titles

Strathmore’s dominance over the East Yosemite League continues as they sweep all other teams for second season in a row

STRATHMORE – Losing a matchup against an East Yosemite League (EYL) opponent is an unfamiliar concept to Strathmore head coach Tim Stadtherr. For the fifth time in eight years, he has led the Spartans to another undefeated EYL season and added another league championship to the trophy case after last week’s 12-7 win over Sierra Pacific.

In his eighth year with the team, he is a combined 53-4 in EYL matchups. Two of those four losses came against the Sierra Pacific Golden Bears and this year’s EYL championship came down to those two teams.

Sierra Pacific came into last Wednesday’s EYL deciding match with a bit of extra motivation. The Golden Bears lost the first matchup against the Spartans so they needed a win to earn a share of the title. They were also in playoff mode a week earlier than most as they needed a win against Strathmore to earn a shot at the postseason.

“You can definitely tell that their coach had them ready and had them pumped up and had them energized to come out against us because that was a way closer game than any of us thought it should have been,” Stadtherr said.

It was the third meeting of the season between the two teams as they played in a tournament prior to their two league games. The Spartans won all three matchups but the final matchup was definitely the closest.

The Spartans stayed in control but the Golden Bears stayed within reach throughout the entire match. Strathmore carried just a one-point lead heading into the second quarter and led by just three points heading into the second half. After being up 7-5 at the beginning of the final period, they finally began to pull away.

In a season where inexperience was a common storyline for nearly every sports program around the County, the Spartans had senior Gabe Bower to fall back on. Bower ended the season with a team high 70 goals including three in the win over Sierra Pacific.

Two freshmen that had never played water polo before ended up making the starting lineup for the Spartans. Both Canyon Johnson and Danny Rodriguez played significant roles this season as the future looks bright for the Spartan program. Johnson became an instant star, finishing just seven goals shy of Bower for the team lead, and took to the game of water polo fairly quickly.

Despite the inexperience, Johnson is a gifted athlete that excels in the pool. He swims competitively and plays travel basketball year-round, so his coach had no problem placing him in the starting lineup.

“I knew that he was going to have the natural ability to see angles, and a lot of the stuff that you see in basketball is what we do here in water polo,” Stadtherr.

The head coach compared the young freshman to basketball legend Allen Iverson in the sense that he’s quick and gets around the pool with ease.

Johnson ended up shattering the school record of goals scored by a freshman. Moses Bower, older brother of Gabe, set the record back in 2015 with 28 goals, less than half the number scored by Johnson this season.

The Spartans began playoffs last night after press time in a home match against Monache, meaning that Johnson likely added on to his record. They landed as the fifth seed in Division III and if they won last night then they will play again tomorrow night against the winner of Golden West and Madera.

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