• Water Polo
NorCal water polo: St. Francis double dips with D-II titles

 

The boys slept in their own beds, while the girls opted for an overnight stay at a hotel. Turns out both strategies worked out.

After roughly nine hours of water polo on Saturday at Rio Americano High in Sacramento, the boys and girls of St. Francis returned to the Mountain View campus with a pair of CIF NorCal Division II championships — the first of its kind.

“It’s a pretty cool thing to do, especially in the first year that the NorCal D-I and D-II finals came out,” said St. Francis senior Nathan Puentes, who will play men’s water polo at UC Santa Barbara. “And to have St. Francis take home the girls and the boys titles, it’s a pretty cool experience and I think it will be one that we’ll remember for a long time.”

The No. 1 seed in both brackets after reaching the semifinals of the inaugural Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs a week earlier, each of the Lancers required back-to-back victories on Saturday to claim the title.

Action in the pool began at 8 a.m., with the girls waking up to sub-40 degree temperature.

“The girls were really nostalgic the night before thinking about, ‘Hey, we started this journey working hard in the offseason and here we are on the last day, it was one of our goals,’ ” said Brendon Reutebuch, who coaches the girls.

While the boys hit the road, their counterparts took care of business in the semifinals 9-1 over Carondelet of Concord.

The rest of the St. Francis contingent arrived in time for its 10:20 a.m. contest, a 16-11 shootout against Garces Memorial of Bakersfield.

“I just didn’t want to deal with the traffic on Friday night,” said Terry O’Donnell, who coaches the boys. “It was for sure a long day, but the boys have been conditioning so hard all year and you could really tell on Saturday.”

The girls needed to wait until 2 p.m. for the championship game against No. 2 Sanger.

“The day went by very quickly,” said St. Francis senior Izzy Mandema, who will play women’s water polo at Indiana. “We were all shocked.”

There was little room for error in a hard-fought 7-5 triumph that included goals from five different Lancers, who led 5-3 at halftime.

“The team is resilient,” Reutebuch said. “We were presented a great opportunity by going in Division II with so many of the powerhouses going at Division I — and we took care of it. Between Izzy Ditzler and Izzy Mandema, we really had some awesome games.”

“The last minutes were definitely nerve-wracking,” said Mandema, who finished her four-year career at St. Francis with 386 goals, netting 117 as a senior. “It all, I think, started with our first cheer. We say, ‘SFHS, go, fight, win.’ And Reutebuch said, ‘You know, this is some of your last cheering you’ll ever do as a St. Francis player.’ So we all brought it in tight and I think that’s kind of the moment that I realized this is the game we gotta win.

“And after I just hugged one of my real good friends on the team, Izzy, and we were both crying, we were just so excited.”

St. Francis (20-9) claimed the WCAL round-robin title in a long, grinding campaign. At points it felt like survival mode, with ailments such as pneumonia, mono and bronchitis plaguing members of the team.

That might explain why there wasn’t a ceremonial dip into the pool with the coaches.

“To be honest, we did not do a pile up in the pool after the game,” Reutebuch said. “We celebrated, but it was a little subdued, shall we say. I think we were just relieved that it would be over and we could go get healthy.”

It was the opposite case for the boys after defeating the third-seeded host by a 12-6 margin in the championship game, which concluded just prior to sunset.

“When we all jumped in the water at the end it was a really special moment to have that feeling of accomplishment in our last moments together as a team,” O’Donnell said.

Puentes added: “We’ve been wanting to throw Coach O’Donnell in the pool since our freshman year. That’s always been a goal of mine, to help bring home a championship to St. Francis. And when that finally happened, all the work that we’ve done, it’s all paid off.”

It turned into a picture-perfect ending for Puentes, who accounted for half of his team’s scoring by finding the back of the cage six times.

But with nine seniors on the roster for the Lancers (20-9), he wasn’t interested in the spotlight.

“It was a picturesque kind of thing at the end,” Puentes said. “It was just I feel like a perfect way to end our season, especially with a lot of seniors. I like to think of my teammates as brothers and I feel like the chemistry was the biggest part of our success over this past year.”

“We had a lot of dynamic offensive weapons, so wherever opportunities arose we were going to capitalize on them,” O’Donnell said. “And that’s just a real good indicator of how unselfish our team was. I think you could pick any game and a different kid on our team would be the highlight.”

It was back to school on Monday at St. Francis, with no more water polo left until next year and NorCal trophies waiting to be put on display.

“I’m packing my bag for tomorrow thinking that I have practice,” Mandema said on Sunday. “It’s just kind of all surreal.”

“Last night was our first day without practice and I almost didn’t know what to do,” Puentes said on Tuesday. “But I got together with some of my water polo friends, we just hung out for a little bit and I think that just shows the chemistry and camaraderie that we have with our team. We’re always going to be there for each other and we’re going to be friends for the rest of our lives.”

CIF NorCal Div II Girls Results

11/14/17

1

2

3

4

F

Sonora

0

2

2

0

4

St. Francis

4

3

3

3

13

Goals

Blackburn, Dizler-2, Walker, Mandema-5, LaCroix, Ma-3

 

Saves

Villanueva-7

 

11/18/17

1

2

3

4

F

Carondelet

0

0

1

0

1

St. Francis

4

3

1

1

9

Goals

Dizler, Walker, Mandema-4, Kaufman-2, Clark

Saves

Blanc-9

 

 

11/18/17

1

2

3

4

F

Sanger

3

1

1

0

5

St. Francis

3

2

1

1

7

Goals

Ditzler-2, Walker, Mandema, Blackburn, Reed-2

Saves

Blanc-6

 

 

CIF NorCal Div II Boys Results

11/14/17

1

2

3

4

F

Christian Brothers

1

0

0

2

3

St. Francis

7

4

5

3

19

Goals

Lozinski-2, Puentes-4, Aksoy, Zamlich-2, Ferrari-2, Pak, Duchez-2, Tannous, Hill, Bullock, Reo-2

 

11/18/17

1

2

3

4

F

Garces Memorial

3

2

1

5

11

St. Francis

5

6

4

1

6

Goals

Lozinski-3, Phillips-3, Puentes, McMahon, Ferrari-6, Hill

 

11/18/17

1

2

3

4

F

Rio Americano

1

2

0

3

6

St. Francis

2

4

4

2

12

Goals

Lozinski, Puentes-6, Aksoy-3, Ferrari-2