Union Democrat staff

Both the girls and boys water polo teams at Sonora High earned a berth in the second round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin playoffs.

The girls posted a 23-3 win Friday night at home against the El Camino Eagles of Sacramento. The boys on Thursday topped Beyer 11-10.

Both teams won the Mother Lode League championship with perfect 6-0 records.

Sonora girls are 16-7 overall. They are seeded No. 1 in the Division III section playoff.

The boys team is the fifth seed in the playoffs.

Girls’ Coach Matt Personius said his team came out strong from the start and was up 8-0 at the end of the first quarter.

“We have a fast and aggressive team,” he said.

Top scorer was Megan Slater with eight goals, followed by Emily Van Noord with five.

Last year, Slater was chosen as one of the best youth water polo players in the nation after competing in the USA Water Polo Olympic Development Program National Championships in San Ramon.

Personius played water polo at University of California Berkeley from 1985-90, during which the team won two NCAA Division I titles. He and his wife JulieAnn started a club program in Sonora because they wanted their children to have the opportunity to play.

That morphed into a water polo program at Sonora High a decade ago.

The high school program has in recent years been a consistent winner even as it competes for players with volleyball.

“Water polo is tough to learn,” he said. “Nobody watches it on TV.”

But summer programs have helped with recruiting and he is quick to bring up players with potential to the varsity level, he said.

He called the new aquatics center a game changer.

“It creates a space to train for exactly what we want in games,” he said.

The girls team made it to the first round of the NorCal tournament last year after winning the section.

“The girls have been talking about getting back here all summer,” Personius said.

Standing between them is a semi-final match against Beyer High of Modesto, which starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Tokay High in Lodi and, if they win, the Division III finals Saturday at Woodcreek High School in Roseville.

The boys team will play Christian Brothers Tuesday at Johansen High School in Modesto. The San Joaquin boys final will be Saturday at Woodcreek. The team lost by one point last year again Christian Brothers in the section final.

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