Sonora High School junior Audrey Simmons had never played water polo until August.
On Saturday afternoon she scored the game winning goal for the Wildcats, earning the team the CIF Sac-Joaquin section Division III championship.
“It was a power play for us,” said head coach Matt Personius. “Lillian (Fox) found her.”
Simmons would prove to be just one of the key players for Sonora.
Everyone stepped up, Personius said.
The No. 1 Wildcats defeated No. 2 Kimball 6-5 in what was a closer game than expected.
“I sort of thought that it would go a little easier,” Personius said.
Kimball was able to identify the ‘Cats leading scorer, Megan Slater. She’s got 100 goals on the year and teams are well aware of her offensive skills.
She had eight in the previous game against Christian Brothers.
“They put their most aggressive active defender on Megan,” said Personius.
And they were more efficient on offense than in previous games against Sonora.
“You gotta understand that not scoring goals isn’t a failure,” Personius told Slater after the game.
Slater’s ability to draw so much attention from Kimball gave other team members more opportunities.
That’s where the rest of the roster moved in to help make the needed adjustments.
“Every player was ready,” said Personius.
For Personius, part of the excitement of coaching is teaching players how to be in the right place so they can execute, coaching the whole team to be equally prepared.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said.
In addition to the clutch goal and assist from Simmons and Fox, sophomore Taetum Arnett gets credit for putting the team on the score board first in the half.
“It kept us mentally in the game,” Personius said.
Despite being down 3-1 at the half, there was never any concern the game was getting away from the ‘Cats.
It was more a matter of finding their footing offensively.
They also sealed up the defense, holding Kimball to zero goals in the third.
When Sonora went up 4-3 in the second half, momentum had clearly shifted back to the ‘Cats, Personius said.
Taetum Arnett ended up with two goals,” Personius said. “Emily Van Noord scored three times in the second half. That was also a difference maker for us. She filled in the gap.”
Next up for Sonora is the CIF NorCal Championships.
The bracket is made up of Division I and II schools.
Because Sonora is Division III, they’re appropriately seeded No. 8, said Personius.
That means they will meet No. 1 seed St. Francis, a Division II team. They went 17-10 overall and 5-1 in their league.
The game is today at 5 p.m. at St. Francis High School in Mountain View.