REEDLEY – A strong defensive performance combined with a third period offensive eruption powered the Reedley High girls water polo team into the semifinal round of the Central Section Division II playoffs last weekend.
A goal by Hayley Lopez that just beat the buzzer to end the first half tied the score, and the third-seeded Pirates (26-4) went on to score four times in the third period to defeat No. 6 San Luis Obispo 7-3 at Reedley High pool on Nov. 4. It advanced Reedley into a 6 p.m. semifinal contest in Bakersfield on Tuesday, Nov. 7 against No. 2 seed Garces Memorial (22-8), which downed No. 7 Edison 12-1 on Nov. 4.
Tuesday’s semifinal will be the third meeting this season between Reedley and Garces. The Rams rolled to a 16-6 victory at the Central Valley Classic in Clovis on Sept, 2, before the Pirates avenged that defeat in a 9-5 decision at the Atascadero Tournament on Oct 5.
Pirates coach Kara Pavlovic said Lopez’s goal in the final second of the first half — tying the score at 2-2 — was just the boost needed to set up a dominating closing 14 minutes of play.
”That definitely was our momentum swing, and we had a couple of early goals in that third quarter,” she said. “We just went more into our movement instead of our post-up (attack), which is what we’ve been doing all season and then we went back to our basic offense.”
Reedley broke the tie when senior Grace Tademy fired in a shot from straightaway in the opening moments of the third as both teams amped up their attacks. The Tigers (14-15) tied the score on a Lana Engelskirger power play goal, but less than 20 seconds later a score by Maggie Ellis put the Pirates ahead to stay at 4-3.
Reedley padded the lead with a minute left in the period, when Lopez pounced on a caromed shot off the post during a power play and scored on the rebound. After a Reedley stop and SLO foul that resulted in a penalty shot Ellis converted with 25 seconds left to make it 6-3.
The remainder of the game was a solid defensive performance by Reedley, with goalkeeper Kamarin Holm making a couple of athletic saves and showing aggression retrieving loose balls in front of the cage. Ellis tallied her third goal for the lone scoring in the quarter. Lopez also had three goals, opening the game’s scoring with a goal in the early moments of play.
San Luis Obispo’s first half goals came from Hadley Johnson and Reese Evanoff, both in the second quarter to give the visitors a brief lead.
The Pirates’ victory over Garces in the second meeting is likely to give the team a mental boost heading into the rematch.
“(I’m) nervous, but confident,” Pavlovic said.
In other quarterfinal matches involving Mid Valley Times region teams:
Arroyo Grande 12, Sanger 6 — In Arroyo Grande on Nov. 4, the Division I top-seeded Eagles (25-6) jumped to a 4-0 lead after one quarter and never looked back to end the eighth-seeded Apaches’ season at 17-10.
Junior Sophie McGehee had four goals and an assist while Berkley Sinner and Natalie Winfield added two goals apiece for Arroyo Grande, which next hosts No. 5 seed Clovis West after the Eagles upended No. 4 Clovis East. Sanger captured the County Metro Athletic Conference title this fall with a perfect 8-0 record.