The Exeter Water Polo Club traveled to Florida last week to compete in the Spring in the Swamp Invitational hosted by the University of Florida. The team was made up of players from Porterville, Tulare, and Visalia.
The team flew out Thursday together from Fresno to Dallas where they took a connecting flight to Gainesville, Fla. With the east coast time change, Thursday was a full travel day.
The team began their trip with a tour of the University of Florida in Gainesville. They were able to go down to the field level of the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, home of the University of Florida Football team. Then they traveled to Saint Augustine Beach which is the oldest settlement in the United States for a fun afternoon on the beach.
“My favorite part of the trip was being with my teammates before and after games,” said Nicole Tristao. “We all got to know each other better and had a great time laughing together on the beach and during the team van rides.”
Exeter opened up the tournament with a win over Orlando United B team 11-6 win. The team was led by Monache High senior Ava Lobue.
“Competing in a different state took some adjusting to the officiating and physicality,” LoBue said. “The different teams in Florida definitely challenged us in different ways which caused us to have to play in ways we weren't necessarily used to.”
Exeter then was matched up against the Orlando United A team. United came out strong and Exeter rallied in the second half to bring it within 2 goals but ran out of time and ended up falling short 12-15.
Exeter ended up being the sixth seat of the tournament and had to play the third ranked Florida East Coast team. Again the Exeter girls found themselves down, but continued to keep the strong aggressive play in the second half and were able to tie things up with 1 minute left in the game. Alicia Fregosa was able to come up with a few key saves in the last 2 minutes of play to keep the Exeter girls in the game. Golden goal overtime started with a strong swim-off sprint by Ava Lobue, and Exeter won the first possession of the overtime. That was all that was needed. Tristoa drew an ejection foul that led to a 6 on 5 man-up where Olivia Machado took a strong shot that bounced off the crossbar. The ball was then recovered by Exeter and Karlie Wanmer was able to find the back of the net with an outside shot to end the game.
“I looked up at the clock and we had 2 seconds left on the shot clock and figured we needed a shot,” Wanmer said. “It felt really rewarding to win such an intense and physical game.”
Exeter then qualified for the semifinal game against number one ranked Greenwich from Jupiter, Fla. Throughout the game, Exeter did a good job handling the much larger Greenwich team. Exeter ended up falling short 14-6. Greenwich went on to win the championship game against Capital 14-2.
“I'm so grateful our team was able to travel across the country for this tournament,” Micaiah Cabasa said. “We had a lot of fun exploring parts of Florida and I was able to get way closer with my teammates. We haven't had any games in California since everything shut down, so it was really awesome to get to compete against the top teams from Florida.”
LoBue said, “My favorite part of the trip was traveling and rooming with my teammates because it really helped us bond and create so many amazing memories which I think added to how well we were able to play together. This tournament meant more than most because we finally got an opportunity to do what we love after a long time.”
The Exeter Water Polo Club would like to thank the City of Lindsay and the Lindsay Wellness Center for housing the team and allowing them to practice. They would also like to thank Anderson Fence, The Britton Family, J-Flos, Spoons, and Hansen Travel for their continued support of the program.
On the EWPC team are: Alicia Fregoso (Biola University), Abigail Summers (Golden West), Paulina Cemo (Harmony Magnet Academy), Micaiah Cabasa (GWHS), Nicole Tristao (Tulare Western High), Regan Azevedo (Monache), Ahna Davis (Porterville), Tayler Drummonds (GWHS), Ava Lobue (MHS), Karlie Wanmer (PHS), Olivia Machado (TWHS), Devon Cardoza (TWHS).
If you would like more information about joining the Exeter Water Polo Club you can check them out at www.exeterwaterpoloclub.com or contact coach Jack at 909-782-7157.