Girls Water Polo Falls in the De Anza Championship

The girls water polo team fell to Los Gatos 7-1 today, November 7, in the SCVAL championship game. The Wildcats came in as the only team from the De Anza league to have beaten the Eagles, and both teams expected a hard battle.With the result, the Eagles took second place in the league going into CCS.

The game started off as a defensive struggle, with both offensives struggling to gain any ground. The Eagles had trouble controlling the ball and were forced to mainly settle for low-percentage outside shots, but on the other end their defense kept the game even, with junior goalie Trinity Suh making many big saves. With ten seconds left in the quarter, Los Gatos drew it’s second 6-5 advantage of the game. The Eagles blocked the initial shot, but the Wildcats scooped up the rebound and put it past Trinity with 0.12 seconds left on the clock. Sophomore co-captain Julia Santos’ long-distance prayer on the restart flew harmless over the crossbar, and the Eagles ended the quarter down 1-0.

The second quarter was more of the same. After winning the opening sprint, Los Altos saw its best chance of the game so far, as senior co-captain Ellen Roper caught the ball two meters from goal, but her shot went off the bar, across the goalmouth and out. After that the game slowed down again. The Wildcat’s tough pressing, along with some costly offensives kept the Eagles from setting up any sort of offense.

“It definitely made it harder to move the ball and get started on the drives,” senior co-captain Christina Pao said. “We were [getting] pushed out which made passing into set a lot more difficult for our perimeter players.”

Meanwhile, Los Altos’ defense did the same to Los Gatos, and as the halftime buzzer rang, the Wildcats were still up 1-0.

The Eagles started the third quarter much like the second. Santos found a shooting lane from seven, meters, but her shot went off the bar and out. Los Altos gained its first 6-on-5 advantage, but still struggled to get any offense going, and the Wildcats kept the lead.

On their second 6-on-5 opportunity, the Eagles finally got on the board. With 3:53 remaining, sophomore Annalisa Pao caught a pass from the line five meters out and buried it in the cage to even the game at 1-1. Both teams had good chances in the final two minutes, but both saw their shots hit iron and bounce out, and the game stayed tied going into the final quarter.

The game was fought in front of a large group of fans, mostly made up of members of the varsity boys water polo team, who won their third-place game earlier in the day over Mountain View.

“It was really exciting, especially with the crowd cheering and giving us great support,” Ellen said. “I think it kept us on our toes and really pushed us to try to keep our heads in the game and to continue working hard in there.

The fourth quarter started off promising for Los Altos. Annalisa drew a 6-on-5 opportunity, but again the Eagles failed to get anything out of it. With 5:25 remaining, the Wildcats drew a five-meter shot and converted, retaking the lead. On the Eagles’ next possession, junior Kayleigh Pederson’s long shot bounced off the bar and out, and the Wildcats countered quickly, burying a one-on-one opportunity to stretch the deficit to 3-1.

From there, the Wildcats took control with their speed. Four more Los Gatos goals in the final 4:40 brought the score to 7-1 when the final buzzer sounded, putting a tough end to what was a hard-fought game.

With the SCVAL tournament over, the Eagles move on to CCS. Projected to have a high seed, the team will start their run sometime next week, depending on whether they have a first-round bye.

“Despite this loss, we can’t forget our amazing season, and we’re still in a great place for CCS,” Ellen said. “We have a few more days of practice before then, so we’ll definitely be working really hard and will be going into CCS with our heads held high.”