After the Los Banos boys water polo team went winless at the Sunnyside Tournament in Fresno, coach Darryl Barger sat down with his team for a serious talk.
“I turned the heat up. Like, really hot. I wanted them to understand that they weren’t in shape, they were being lackadaisical, and that they needed to get their work ethic up. It’s true of all sports,” Barger said. “You might be the best player out there, but your attitude still needs to be team, because they still need to help you, or everybody out there will be all over you.”
His squad responded, and after Wednesday’s 17-4 win over Livingston, the Tigers are 3-0 in Western Athletic Conference play and have sole possession of first place in the league. The biggest win so far was Monday’s 9-8 victory over defending league champion Ceres.
“That was big. Player of the game was definitely (goalkeeper) Marcos Hedrick,” Barger said. “They transitioned us eight times, and he stopped every shot except one. That was magnificent.”
Against Livingston, a second-year program, Hedrick stopped 7 shots before his backup entered the game in the fourth quarter. Livingston scored the first goal a minute into the game, but Dalton Brooks equalized the game moments later, skipping a shot off the surface of the pool from the perimeter, and when Austin Bryan gave LB a 2-1 lead, the Tigers were off and running. Livingston held LB close in the first half, and the Tigers entered the break with a 6-3 lead.
LB took control in the third quarter, with quick scores from Brooks and Jared Benitez, followed by a pair of J.T. Barcellos goals. Livingston managed just one goal after halftime.
“We’re in sole contention of first place, where second and third are tied right now,” Barger said about the team’s turnaround. “Central Catholic, which was supposed to be a big performer this year, they played us really close for three strong quarters, and it was at the end that we pulled away.”
Los Banos continues its WAC campaign against cross-town rival Pacheco (0-3) on Monday to close out the first round of league play. Pacheco defeated Los Banos twice last year to take the WAC’s second playoff spot behind Ceres. It would have been LB’s first playoff appearance.