The girls water polo team lost a tense semifinal match 3-4 against season rival Los Gatos yesterday, November 18. This loss signified the end of their CCS run and their season.
It was the team’s fifth encounter with the Wildcats, and the team was on edge right from the beginning.
“Los Gatos is a team where you have to fight from the minute the first buzzer starts the game to the time the last buzzer ends,” junior Annalisa Pao said.
The first quarter highlighted the defensive capabilities of both the Eagles and the Cats. Both teams play a heavy, pressure defense designed to reduce the opponent’s movement. The Eagles were accomplished this goal with relative ease, restricting Gatos’ plays and forcing mistakes. However, they were unable to prevent a six meter foul, which allowed a key shooter to convert her opportunity into an early lead for the Cats. Despite a few offensive opportunities, the Eagles were unable to get on the scoreboard in the first quarter. On the perimeter, a hard shot from sophomore co-captain Julia Santos hit the bar hard and slammed straight down, but didn’t clear the goal line; in set, senior co-captain Ellen Roper struggled against Los Gatos’ notorious foul-and-drop defense. A defensive lapse led to a successful two-on-one counterattack for Los Gatos, and the Eagles went into the first quarter down 2-0.
The second quarter saw the Eagles launch their own barrage on goal, beginning and ending with critical goals from Ellen. The senior managed a high corner shot from seven meters out, bringing the score to within one goal. On defense, the Eagles displayed a remarkable ability to adapt, incorporating a more wholesome, team-based defense to prevent foul-and-shots. Senior co-captain Christina Pao calmly prevented a potential goal with a quick steal, and in the next defensive possession the Eagles forced the Cats to run out the shot clock, denying any offensive opportunities. Julia Santos drew an ejection, allowing Ellen to score her second goal on the resulting 6 on 5 power play, and the half ended 2-2.
The third quarter is best represented by the emotional cheering on both ends of the pool, as the game swung back and forth with every play. Both teams kept up their tough defense, but the Eagles were in control of the early moments, finding opportunities and drawing ejections on every possession. Julia Santos rose high out of the water for a powerful, high skip shot that sped right over the goalie’s head, giving the Eagles a one-point lead. A questionable call from the referee allowed Gatos to retaliate, sinking a shot from eight meters. Despite crucial defensive efforts from sophomore goalie Trinity Suh and Annalisa, Los Gatos followed with another foul-and-shot, taking back the lead to end the quarter 4-3.
Fever-pitch intensity on both ends of the pool defined the fourth quarter, which brought sections of the crowd to their feet with every steal and shot.
“Our cheering section was amazing,” Annalisa said. “There were so many parents and players from our own team, the JV team, and boys’ teams, and they definitely helped to keep our heads in the game.”
Trinity anticipated a catch-and-shot with a diving save, and communicative defense from the Eagles allowed the team to recover from a potentially dangerous counter. The Eagles pulled off decent shots almost every possession, but were unable to make it past the goalie. With 14 seconds left in the game, the Eagles called a timeout to run a special play, but was unable to convert, and the game ended with a scoreless fourth quarter, a 4-3 victory for the Wildcats.
“We improved a ton throughout the course of the season, but I think they did too,” sophomore Brynn Walther said. “Playing a team five times is really difficult because they know all of your plays.”
The loss put an end to what had been a very successful season for the Eagles. After a losing season last year, the team came back into their stride, finishing first in the De Anza League and earning a high seed in CCS.
“I think that this season went very well,” Annalisa said. “Placing first in league and third in CCS is obviously a huge feat, and the entire team has worked so hard to get to this place.”
They also managed to achieve their main season goal, ending the year on a high note.
“At the beginning of the season, Katie asked us what our goals for the team were, and a big one was make it farther than last year in ccs, which we did,” Brynn said. “I’m super proud of all of us.”