Oak Ridge water polo teams to play for third place

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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With a top-four finish in the Sierra Foothill League, Oak Ridge’s boys’ and girls’ water polo teams will advance to the section playoffs.

Both teams play Rocklin Wednesday with the winner securing third-place in the SFL end-of-the-season tournament. The girls lost to Woodcreek in the semifinals Monday, 9-7, while the boys’ fell to Granite Bay, 14-5.

The girls got off to a great start against the higher-seeded Timberwolves on Monday, scoring the first four goals of the game, but only managed three the rest of way. Eryqa Flores and Ellie Crook scored goals and Rachael Kowalchick added two on breakaways that put the Trojans up 4-0 about the midpoint of the first period.

Jamie Sanders put Woodcreek on the board before Flores  netted her second goal. At the end of the first period, Sierra Nielson scored on a long shot as time expired to bring the Timberwolves within three, 5-2.

Sanders scored the lone goal of the second period, as Oak Ridge led 5-3 at halftime. Woodcreek keeper Emma Pike saved two penalty throws in the first half taken by Kowalchick and Lauren Tilley, which proved to be huge.

Kowalchick extended Oak Ridge’s lead to 6-3 in the third period, but Hope Grantham and Allison Kay scored to cut the lead to 6-5 after three periods.

Oak Ridge again struck first in the fourth period with a goal by Kowalchick made it 7-5 with 5:49 to play. That was it for the Trojans, as Woodcreek scored the final four goals; two by Kay to tie the game with 3:32 to play. Madeline Rutan put the Timberwolves in front with 3:14 to play and Nielson added an insurance goal later on.

“I thought we played well,” Oak Ridge coach Patrick Foster said. “Woodcreek was the higher seed, and we’ve gotten better each time we’ve played them. We’ve come a long way. Losing two players hurt. Eryqa got hit in the head and was pulled out early and Rachael fouled out early in the fourth, but the girls held it together.”

The loss dropped Oak Ridge’s record to 8-13, but they still earned a top-four finish in the league win or lose Wednesday.

“We’re doing better with every game,” Foster said. “Playing for third is good for us; it’s been awhile since we’ve been that high. I’m happy with the girls. We’re a young team with only three seniors.”

Oak Ridge’s boys’ team defeated Del Oro, 12-10, in double overtime in the first round of the playoffs, but then lost to Granite Bay, 14-5. The loss dropped their record to 10-11 on the season.

“The boys have had a pretty good season,” Foster said. “I’m starting to see better play. They won their last three games at the DeLong Tournament this weekend. They’re ending the season well.”