Danny Rodriguez leads Strathmore to road victory

Strathmore’s Danny Rodriguez takes a shot against Porterville on Wednesday night. In Strathmore’s 18-11 victory over the Panthers, Rodriguez led the way with eight goals.(Kason Clark)

Rodriguez scores eight goals in Strathmore’s 19-11 victory over Porterville; win improves the Spartans’ record to 5-3 this season

PORTERVILLE – In a meeting between a pair of 4-3 teams, Strathmore and Porterville boys water polo faced off on Wednesday to see who would stay above .500. The Spartans came away with the 18-11 victory over the Panthers, but Strathmore head coach Tim Stadtherr believes the match was harder than the final score indicated.

“Anytime you’ve got these intra-city rivals for dozens of years, no matter what one team’s standing is as far as how good they are that year, it’s always going to be way closer than it should be on paper,” Stadtherr said.

A positive development for the Spartans was the performance of Danny Rodriguez. Stadtherr put Rodriguez in the hole and Rodriguez rewarded his coach’s decision by scoring eight goals against Porterville.

Rodriguez got started early as he scored four goals in the first quarter alone. However, Porterville kept pace as the Spartans only had a 5-4 lead at the end of the opening frame.

But in the second quarter, the Spartans took control. During the frame, both Rodriguez and Canyon Johnson scored three goals to lead Strathmore to a 12-5 lead by halftime. After a slow start to the game, Stadtherr believes the Spartans’ experience finally began to shine.

“I think it’s just our superior time in the pool. We have way more time in the pool than they do,” Stadtherr said.

The Panthers tried to stay in the game in the second half. With about three minutes left in the game, the Panthers cut their deficit to 15-11. However, the Spartans responded with three unanswered goals to put the game away.

Porterville dropped to 4-4 on their season with the loss. As the Panthers move forward, Porterville head coach Tristan Cardoza hopes that his young team will learn from this loss and continue to develop.

“We’re a very, very young team so we just have to put both our defense and our offense together,” Cardoza said. “We definitely have some work to do but I do feel that our progression of where we’re at early on in the season, we’re progressing the right way.”

While the win improved their record to 5-3 this season, Stadtherr thought the Spartans played sloppily against Poterville. As they march ahead, Stadtherr believes they need to improve if they want to accomplish their goals this fall.

“It’s still technically early in the season, but we’ve got more to work on than I was thinking we had to work on,” Stadtherr said.

Panthers shut down visiting Spartans

Early on Wednesday night, Porterville girls water polo hosted a hot Strathmore team that had won three games in a row. But the Spartans went cold as the Panthers shut them down for a 15-7 victory at home.

“I thought we played well,” Porterville head coach Evan Thomas said. “I thought some of the things we were trying to work on were successful in this game.”

The first half between the Panthers and the Spartans saw the teams go back and forth. By halftime, the Panthers only held a 9-5 lead. But in the third quarter, they finally took control. Along with scoring a trio of goals during the frame, the Panthers limited the Spartans to only one goal in the third.

“We had to really hunker down on defense and not let them get goals,” Thomas said. “Good defense leads to easy offense, and I think that showed when we scored because of our good defense.”

The Panthers continued to use their strong defense to close it out in the fourth quarter. Along with good defense, the Panthers demonstrated some good offense as Adelyne Merritt scored nine goals in the match.

Porterville’s strong defense snapped a three-game winning streak for the Spartans and dropped them to 5-2 on the season. As the Spartans try to move past the loss, Strathmore head coach Monty Newkirk believes they need to work on a handful of things.

“We just need to get better passes, better shot selection and get back on defense,” Newkirk said. “Those are the three things that we need to do.”

With their win, the Panthers snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 5-3 on the season. As he looks ahead to the rest of the season, Thomas hopes the Panthers learn how valuable defense is.

“I’m a big believer in defense being the key to winning at any sport,” Thomas said. “If we can hold teams to under eight goals and just let our defense win the game for us, we’ll be successful.”

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