GIRLS WATER POLO: Pioneers mount comeback to down Mission Oak Hawks

The Mt. Whitney girls water polo team mount a fourth-quarter comeback after trailing Mission Oak for much of the game

VISALIA – The Mt. Whitney Pioneers soared ahead of the Mission Oak Hawks after watching them from behind for most of the game. In a close match, it came down to the final two minutes before the Pioneers scored the two points they needed to secure their final non-league win.

A slow start left the Pioneers empty-handed and trailing by three after the first quarter. They managed four points by the half, led in scoring by Yareli Ramos, but the Pioneers still trailed and seemed exhausted. It didn’t help that their goalie faced the setting sun, obscuring her vision against any shots by the Hawks.

“They fought really hard and I’m super proud of them,” Mt. Whitney head coach Natalee Crum said after their win.

The Mt. Whitney goalie fared better in the second half with her back to the sun. Crum called several time outs to strategize with her young team. Though they struggled in the third quarter, they came back with a fire in the fourth. They were down by one point and needed two to win. It seemed possible, but the Hawks wouldn’t go down without a fight.

“We had met up with them at a tournament at Tulare Union,” Mission Oak head coach Ashlyn Moya said. “They got ahead of us in that game. We thought we could take them here.”

Evenly matched, the teams traded some points, but in the final two minutes, Mt. Whitney put their tenth point on the board, making it 10-9. All they had to do was hold the Hawks off and they’d secure the win. A minute in water polo time means two rounds of the shot clock, 30 seconds to shoot the ball or give it up to the other team.

The Pioneers successfully kept possession for the final minute and as the clock ticked down, Crum cheered in excitement as her exhausted team swam to the side before instructing them to make sure to congratulate Mission Oak and thank the referees for their time.

“They’ve been training, we’ve been training, it showed that both teams are working really hard.” Moya said. “This was a great learning experience overall.”

Mission Oak will have one more non-league game at Monache on Sept. 22.

“This was one of their best games,” Crum said of her young team. “I’m super proud of them, all of them.”

Mt. Whitney will begin league play against Porterville at home on Sept. 27.

Boys Water Polo

Unlike the Mt. Whitney girls, the boys were unable to mount a comeback after the Hawks scored first. Like the girls, their goalie faced the sun in the first half, but after switching sides, the Pioneers never caught up and lost to the Hawks 9-7.

The Mission Oak boys are a young team, so they’ve been working on the fundamentals while in non-league play. This game saw them truly mobilizing the offense and cementing their passing scheme while simultaneously hustling back to play defense.

“I feel like we’ve improved on a lot of things,” Mission Oak head coach Ross Cochran said. “We really got our offense flowing and played good defense, got stops where we needed to.”

The Mission Oak boys will travel with the girls to play Monache on Sept. 22.

“Finishing is a big part of the sport,” Mt. Whitney head coach Steven Chapman said. “They’re young. We have to learn and practice and work on finishing before the season starts.”

The Pioneers will have six days to practice before starting league play with the girls against Porterville on Sept. 27.

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