On the final day of the girls water polo regular season, the Lady Miners edged Sierra Foothill League foe Del Oro Wednesday, 6-5, to nab the final playoff spot allotted to the SFL.
In a win-or-go-home situation for both Nevada Union (15-9-1, 4-2 SFL) and Del Oro (9-11, 3-3 SFL), it was the Golden Eagles that jumped out to a 4-1 advantage in the third quarter, but the Lady Miners rallied late, outscoring Del Oro 5-1 down the stretch to clinch the win and playoff berth.
“We have been down so many times,” NU head coach Craig Zetterberg said. “We lost to Granite Bay and Rocklin, but we came back in those games, we were down to Ukiah, and we came back in that one. We start slowly, but the girls are really confident that if we’re close after one, once we get warmed up, get our legs under us, we’re a pretty good final three quarters team.”
In the first quarter, goals were hard to come by as the Lady Miners fell behind 2-0 just two minutes into the match. NU’s Sarah Cudworth would put NU on the board just before the quarter ended. Cudworth fired a shot from close range that skimmed the hands of Del Oro’s goalie, but the velocity of the shot carried it into the net.
Del Oro would tally another goal in the second while holding the Lady Miners scoreless. At the half, NU trailed 3-1, and it could have been more if it weren’t for a beautiful save by NU’s Taylor Masch. The junior goalie thwarted a penalty shot with three minutes left in the half to minimize the damage. Masch finished with 12 saves in the game.
In the third, Del Oro’s Bo Williams extended the Golden Eagle lead, netting a goal before a minute had elapsed in the period.
Trailing 4-1, NU’s senior captain Nicole Blaney went to work. She netted her first goal less than a minute after Williams’, and after teammate Ellie DeMartini scored to bring NU to within one, Blaney tallied the equalizer from mid-pool.
In the fourth, NU grabbed its first lead of the game with a Blaney goal at the 4:26 mark. Del Oro would knot it up at 5-5 with a goal at the 2:51 mark. Del Oro’s goal came after a controversial call gave it the possession in prime scoring position.
Undeterred by the call going against them and subsequent goal, the Lady Miners turned right around and scored on a Blaney rocket shot that skipped past the Golden Eagles’ goalie.
The Lady Miners weathered a few scares in the final moments, but in the end, they left the pool victorious.
“We are the comeback team,” Blaney said. “We’ve done it before, and we did it this time. I hope we don’t have to continue doing that, but we’re just a very good team when we play together.”
The playoff bid earned Wednesday was the second for the highly decorated Blaney.
“Twice in the last three years, I love it,” Zetterberg said. “And what a great way for Nic (Blaney) and Ellie (DeMartini) to go out.”
It was standing room only at the NU pool, and the Miners’ student body and faculty came out in droves to support the water polo team.
“The home fans — I love,” Zetterberg said. “This is why I love high school polo. Having the football team come out, all the parents, coach Humphers, coach Houlihan and his whole staff, that’s pretty good.”
The Lady Miners finish the season in third place in the SFL behind Rocklin and Granite Bay and will now prepare for the playoffs, which begin Nov. 8.
Boys water polo
Del Oro 13, Nevada Union 12
With nothing to play for but pride, the Nevada Union boys water polo team put on a show against the favored Del Oro Golden Eagles.
The Miners led for much of the game and put a scare into Del Oro, but in the end, the Eagles slipped out of the NU pool with a one-goal win.
The Miners had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds, but the potentially game-tying shot ricocheted off the Del Oro goalie and out of play.
The match was a defensive struggle for much of the first half as NU held a 3-0 lead after one quarter and held a slight 5-4 edge at half. But as day shifted to night, the game shifted from defensive to offensive.
Del Oro scored five in the third to NU’s two and held a 9-8 lead as the fourth opened.
In the final stanza, NU trailed 12-10, when Chase Milhous netted a goal coming on an assist from Ryan Filek to cut the deficit to one. Milhous led all Miners with five goals and two assists.
Del Oro answered with a goal of its own, to lead 13-11. Milhous scored again with 35 seconds left and NU had a shot attempt at the end, but it didn’t find net, and the Eagles flew out of NU with the victory.
NU senior captain Parker Rhodes scored three goals, senior Earl English tallied one goal and played inspired defense, Kenny Gilfillan added a goal, Alex Fitanides netted a goal, and Cole Castleberry also tallied one goal.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.