SANGER – The Sanger High Apaches kept their chances alive at a piece of a third consecutive County Metro Athletic Conference boys water polo championship as they head into a rematch with the first place Bullard High Knights.
Senior Jaxon Hoover fired in six goals and junior Ryan Nasalroad added five goals as seven different players scored in an 18-9 victory over third place San Joaquin Memorial on Oct. 3 at Sanger Aquatics Complex. The win kept Sanger (11-10, 4-1) one game behind Bullard, which won by a 15-11 score in Fresno on Sept. 21 to snap a 20-game CMAC win streak for the two-time defending conference champions.
The Apaches also have regained momentum, with wins in six of their last seven games (including a 3-1 record at the Roddy Svendsen Shootout in Roseville) after a rugged pre league schedule that featured four losses at the rugged Granite Bay Invitational near Sacramento.
Sanger coach Micha Pavlovic said his team should have confidence going into the rematch with Bullard at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 in Sanger.
“We played in the same tournaments and we ended up higher than they did, so we think we’re doing better than the first time around,” he said. “We’ve got some different personnel as well as a couple of guys from (junior varsity), so we’re definitely going in (with the intent) to win and we have confidence.”
Sanger overcame a bit of a slow start against SJM (9-13, 3-2), leading just 5-4 after one period with Nasalroad collecting two goals. The Apaches then ran off four unanswered goals, three by Hoover, and never led by less than five goals the rest of the contest.
Sophomore Eliot Vilanova and freshman Austin McCaslin continued to make contributions with two goals apiece while Nicholas Bonami, Barret Bron and Nathaniel Tuell also scored. Nasalroad collected the final three of his five goals in the final period as the Apaches closed with a 5-1 run. Goalie Wyatt McNab had a solid performance, collecting 12 saves and showing good passing to set up counter-attacks.
“I would say we had about two-and-a-half quarters of good intensity, we made a good amount of mistakes that we have to fix in our passes,” Pavlovic said. Luke Yount paced the Panthers with four goals while Mario Heredia and Tanner Lee also scored.
The coach said that while Sanger’s overall record suffered with the early non-league and Granite Bay tournament, it improved the team’s strength of schedule which at the moment is the fifth best in the Central Section.
Pavlovic hopes the Apaches will pick up enough wins down the stretch to move up in the Division I playoff bracket, and that there won’t be too much attrition from potential Division II schools falling out of the bracket.
After the Bullard game, Sanger will play five more CMAC contests as well as a home tournament matchup against an opponent to be determined on Friday, Oct. 13. Central Section playoffs begin the first week of November.