Gwynne McBride said playing on the Buhach Colony High School water polo team this season has been one of her best sports experiences.
McBride and the Thunder extended their season with a dominant 21-4 win over No. 12 Ceres in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs on Wednesday evening.
“I think being a part of this group is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” McBride said. “I love all these girls. It’s been unbelievable how far we’ve come.”
In McBride’s first two seasons, the team went 0-10 in the Central California Conference. The Thunder won two conference games last year.
This year, Buhach Colony (20-8, 10-2 CCC) finished second in the conference and Wednesday celebrated its first playoff win in school history. The Thunder were 0-3 in previous playoff appearances.
“The girls were pretty nervous,” Buhach Colony coach Justin Tanzillo said. “This is the first time we’ve hosted a varsity section playoff game in this pool. It’s our first section playoff win ever. It’s the first time we’ve played a playoff game (since 2011). So, yeah, our girls were nervous but they were focused.”
McBride helped set the tone for the fifth-seeded Thunder.
The senior took advantage of often being open in front of the cage, scoring five consecutive goals to help the Thunder open a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.
“I’ve had a lot of practice with my shooting,” said McBride, who finished with a game-high nine goals. “I used to be a little shy to shoot when I was a freshman. All these years of experience have got me further. I think it helped that we practiced different plays that we hadn’t tried before. They worked pretty well.”
“This year she’s really been a force with her shot,” Tanzillo added. “Something has clicked for her. When she gets the ball out on top, she flings it. She’s become our best shooter.”
The Thunder defense suffocated the Bulldogs, forcing Ceres to shoot from the perimeter. Buhach Colony turned bad passes into easy goals on the other end as it built a 13-1 lead by halftime.
McBride added two goals in the third quarter on penalty shots as the Thunder stretched the lead to 19-2, and they began taking out the starters.
Buhach Colony’s Pamela Solano and McBride’s younger sister, Erin, added three goals each.
Buhach Colony advances to play No. 4 Lodi on Friday in the quarterfinals at Tokay High at 5:30 p.m. The Flames defeated No. 13 Laguna Creek 16-3 on Wednesday.
“We’re expecting the competition level to move up in the next round,” Tanzillo said. “We know we’re going to play tougher teams. We’re going to have to be prepared to play well on offense and defense.”
Buhach Colony 21, Ceres 4
Ceres – Goals: Emily Campidonica 1, Julia Pata 1, Kaitlyn Foster 1, Camryn Silva 1.
Buhach Colony (20-8) – Gwynne McBride 9, Pamela Solano 3, Erin McBride 3, Kaylee Robertson 2, Ashland Alcorn 1, Kara Boone 1, Mekenna Sherman 1, Mady Bird 1.