Lady Miners dive into Section playoffs against Downey |

Lady Miners dive into Section playoffs against Downey

Nevada Union's Sarah Cudworth advances the ball against Del Oro earlier this season. NU will face Downey today in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
John Hart/ | The Union

The Lady Miners are diving into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I girls water polo playoffs for the second time in three years, and while on paper they are the underdog, they don’t see it that way.

“We’re not expected to win,” Nevada Union head coach Craig Zetterberg said. “But, we expect to win.”

As the No. 3 team from the Sierra Foothill League, the Lady Miners (15-9-1) drew the San Gabriel Valley League champion Downey Vikings in the first round.

The Vikings come into the playoffs boasting their first league title ever. The Lady Miners enter on a two-game winning streak, including a do-or-die, 6-5, victory over Del Oro, which came on the last day of the season, just to get into the playoffs.

“We’ve been in this spot before and we know we can win,” Zetterberg said. “We are battle tested, and I think that will be the difference.”

In 2011, the last time the Lady Miners made the playoffs, NU beat favored Bella Vista in the first round before falling by one point to McClatchy in the second round.

Zetterberg is confident in his team for many reasons; the return of Faith Robichaud from injury; the outstanding goalie play from Taylor Masch; and when things get tight, NU can always turn to three-year starter and All-League player Nicole Blaney.

“We got Nic,” he said. “She is always the X-factor and at the end of the day, we got Nic, and that’s huge.”

While Blaney is the Miners’ No. 1 scorer and a top-three player in the Sierra Foothill League, the Lady Miners have several strong players they can count on. Seniors Maddie Hedenland and Ellie DeMartini are fierce and physical defenders who can also net a goal when called upon. Juniors Robichaud and Sarah Cudworth bring experience along with their offensive prowess, and freshmen Kei Castleberry and Shawna Latter have played like seniors all season.

Zetterberg said he doesn’t know too much about the Downey team, but he knows his team, and they will be ready for today’s 9 a.m. game at Johanson High School in Modesto.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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