Coming off a tough loss in the Valley championship game to Buchanan Saturday, the Clovis West boys water polo team showed no signs of a hangover three days later, defeating a spirited Acalanes team 14-13 Tuesday night in the first round of the CIF NorCal Boys State tournament.
Clovis West would not be caught looking in the past, as head coach Hillaree Bennett stated pregame the focus for her team would be growth and maturity from their previous loss.
“Our boys haven’t been [in the State tournament] in a very long time, and I haven’t been [in this situation] either, ” Bennett said. “I am looking for some maturity, growth, and execution from our boys. They need to be less ‘me’ and more ‘we’.”
Clovis West indeed played selfless water polo during the first half.
The Golden Eagles’ offense enjoyed crisp passing in the opening minutes, leading to early goals from junior captain Samuel Otta and senior Jack Fitzpatrick. The pair combined for six goals in the first quarter, with Otta netting four on his own.
In the second quarter, the Clovis West offense stayed humming, but ran through the hot hand of another team captain.
Senior captain Parker Fife tallied four goals in the period, as the Golden Eagles kept the visiting Dons at bay, leading them 11-6 at halftime.
Clovis West scored two quick goals at the start of the third quarter to stretch its lead to 13-6, but the Acalanes defense would proceed to lock down Clovis West for the rest of the game.
This renewed defensive effort gave Acalanes a chance to come back, and they almost did.
The Dons went on a 6-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarter, and the score got as close as 13-12 with two minutes left.
Yet right on cue, the Golden Eagles showed maturity under pressure.
Otta scored the game-winning goal with 1:46 left in regulation, as the Golden Eagles survived to play in the next round Thursday.
Bennett noted her team’s lack of intensity in the second half as being something to improve upon ahead of Thursday’s match.
“I didn’t appreciate our second-half effort,” Bennett said. “We were playing lazy defense and forcing near-side shots. That’s been our kryptonite all year, and we’re going to work on that before we head to our next match Thursday.”
No. 3 seed Clovis West will next travel to Carmichael to face the No. 2 seed of the State tournament, the 14-17 Jesuit Marauders.