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Sonora boys water polo faces Ripon in round two of division playoffs


The Sonora varsity boys water polo team beat Benicia in round one play. Photo credit: Courtesy photo

Poetic justice.

That’s how Sonora High School’s boys varsity water polo coach Josh Martin describes what’s next for his team in the playoffs.

They’re taking on Ripon High School today at 10:15 a.m. in their second round match in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division III playoffs.

Ripon is ranked No. 2 in the division. Ripon is the team they lost to earlier this season.

At home.

By two points.

They were team the ‘Cats believed they had to beat to earn a playoff spot.

But that game would turn into one of their worst of the season.

“We didn’t play very well. I didn’t coach very well,” Martin said. “It was a very emotional game for everybody. We let one slip away.”

The loss took its toll on team morale, Martin said.

With a waning chance at a post-season the team went to Oakdale.

But the bitter loss against Ripon had spilled into the Mustangs’ pool. They lost 8-9.

“We ended up choking that game away,” Martin said.

The Wildcats would end their season third in the league.

That was a major disappointment for a team that had started the year expecting to cruise into the playoffs.

Martin said the season got off to a bit of a rocky start. He’s in his first year as varsity coach after being junior varsity coach for three seasons.

The ‘Cats’ roster includes nine seniors. Six of them are Martin’s starters.

What they lacked in game experience they made up for with enthusiasm.

Most of them had been on the bench for the 2016 season, sitting behind more seasoned players. Waiting their turn.

But it was simply a matter of getting players in the pool, doing work.

So they clawed their way through the season. Learning as they went. Staying aggressive and positive about their potential.

Then came the Ripon and Oakdale losses. And what about playoffs?

As fate would have it, the 4-2 league record would be just enough to slip into the division playoffs.

Once the team learned they had earned a No. 6 seed, Martin said he met with the team and shared what’s turning out to be a catalyst for the Wildcats.

This is why we play, he told them. For the playoffs.

Newly fired up, the Wildcats took on Benicia, the No. 3 seed who also had home pool advantage.

They sailed to a 17-7 victory.

“They played their best game of the year. It was an amazing game by them defensively,” Martin said. “Now they know how how good they can be.”

Wednesday against Ripon, Martin will be relying on those six starting seniors to step up, something they’ve already proven they can do.

“I think we are very well prepared,” Martin said. “We were all excited for some redemption. We’re not backing down.”

The boys varsity team will take on Ripon High School today at 10:15 a.m. at Tokay High School in Lodi.

Contact Melissa Blanton at (209) 588-4534 or mblanton@uniondemocrat.com. Follow her on Twitter @downtownmelissa.