The Sonora High School boys water polo team went looking for redemption Wednesday against Ripon.
They got it with a 9-6 win over a No. 2 team that beat them during the regular season 14-12 at home.
The Wildcats feared the defeat would keep them from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
So this win feels more significant.
Head coach Josh Martin said ahead of the game his team would need to stop Ripon’s two strong offensive players. And defend they did, holding Ripon’s Noah Esenwein to just two goals and both came off of five meters.
“We had a game plan for the last couple days,” Martin said. “They came out and executed perfectly.”
The Wildcats didn’t allow Ripon to score an offensive goal from their front court.
“Levi (Houghton) and Caleb (Farwell) played a great game defensively,” Martin said. “I had them matched up on the strong guys from Ripon.”
As the half ended Sonora was up 5-1.
The second half was a bit tighter.
“We let it get a little close,” Martin said.
But a quick timeout set things in motion for the win.
For the Wildcats, Keanu Perez had a strong offensive showing, scoring three of their goals.
“Hayden (Tolbert) in the cage did outstanding,” said Martin. “(He was) swimming the ball out to prevent steals and easy goals.”
For Martin, Wednesday’s game wasn’t just about taking home the win.
“I think the best part was the fortitude and heart of the boys,” he said.
Few thought No. 6 Sonora had a chance to storm their way through the Division III bracket.
And it’s exactly what they’ve done, taking down the No. 2 and 3 seeds on their way to the section final.
Martin credits his team’s grit and willingness to listen.
“They are listening to the coaching,” he said. “They are following the game plan.”
Next up for the Wildcats is No. 1 seed Christian Brothers.
It’s another rematch. Christian Brothers knocked Sonora out of sections last year.
To prepare for the game Martin said the team will be focusing on finding offensive opportunities and handling their opponents speed.
“We gotta work on our counter attack. They’re a fast team. They anticipate well,” Martin said.
They also have a good goalie in the cage
The two teams have played each other three times this season.
Sonora won the first 6-4, lost the second 5-4 and lost the third 11-8.
“It’s going to be a physical, aggressive game,” Martin said. I’m expecting a hard fought game from both sides.”
The Sonora Wildcats will play Christian Brothers Saturday at American River College in Sacramento at 9:30 a.m.