No. 2 Monache takes on No. 1 Garces Memorial for Valley
Two years ago, Monache High School girls water polo played for a CIF Central Section Division II championship. They lost the game in sudden-death overtime.
On Saturday, six players from that 2017 team have another shot at a Valley title after the second-seeded Marauders (22-4, 6-2 EYL) topped the sixth-seed Atascadero Hounds (19-11) to advance to this weekend's Valley championship game against top-seed Garces Memorial.
Leading Monache's offense was Claire Schrein, who posted a game-high five goals, two assists and two steals.
“I am so excited to go back to the Valley championship game,” Schrein, a senior, said. “Whether we win or lose, I'm just so glad that we made it there.”
The Hounds outscored the Marauders 6-1 in the fourth quarter, which made the final score make the game seem closer than it was. But Monache controlled things from the start.
Schrein put the team on the board first before Atascadero could get their first goal with 1 minute, 27 seconds left in the first quarter. But before the quarter could close, the Marauders' Ava LoBue scored twice while teammate Regan Azevedo put one past the Hounds goalkeeepr to take a 4-1 lead.
From there, Monache went on to outscore Atascadero 2-1 in the second and 3-1 in the third quarter to head into the fourth up 9-3.
LoBue finished with three goals, two assists and one steal; Azevedo had one goal, one assist and one steal; Kalina Weaver had two assists and one steal; Nevaeh Castillo had one assist and one steal; and Isabel Sutherland chipped in a goal.
“I thought it was really good,” Schrein said about the game. “We played very good as a team and I just felt like that was one of the best games as far as teamwork.”
In the cage, goalkeeper Infinity Dignam had seven blocks and two steals. Her defense all season has been one of the biggest keys to the Marauders' success but she credits her team for her ability to play so well.
“I think this year has kind of been like my prime year I would say,” Dignam said. “I've grown a lot over the years and I think this year, my senior year, I'm doing really good. The team that I have with me … my defense, they're amazing and I don't think I could honestly be as good as I am without them.”
Dignam, Schrein, Weaver, LoBue, Sutherland and Tracy McCoy were all on the 2017 that went to Valley, but in Dignam's case, this will be the first time she gets to truly be a part of the game.
“I get to play this year,” she said with a laugh. “I wasn't a goalie then, I was a bench player back then. So this year I get to play, so it's just like, I'm nervous because no matter what this will be my last game that I get to play in high school polo. And it's just kind of scary so I hope it's good for us.”
To win the program's first Valley title since 2004, Monache has to defeat East Yosemite League foe — the Rams of Garces Memorial (22-5, 7-1 EYL). The Rams won the EYL title by defeating the Marauders twice, 12-4 and 13-8. That first loss ended a 14-game win streak for Monache.
“We just have to put our plan in place and do the best that we can,” MHS head coach Kyla Conway said. “I have the highest level of respect for that program and that coach and those girls, and they're a wonderful water polo team. We're just gonna go and play our game and do what we can.
Regardless of her team's record against Garces, Conway doesn't want the team seen as underdogs.
“I don't want my girls going in and feeling like underdogs,” Conway said. “I want them going in feeling like they deserve to be there because they do. I want them to go out there with confidence and just play their game. I don't want them to play any other game but theirs. And if we do that, we have a really good chance in my opinion.”