Coach Scott McCall gathered his Merced College men's water polo team to the side of the pool deck.
After a wait that had involved considerable tension, McCall delivered some happy news.
Modesto's protest of the Blue Devils' right to the sixth and final seed in Friday's NorCal Tournament had been denied.
"The Modesto coach had challenged the formula and some of the other criteria," McCall said. "The (California Community College Athletic Association) clarified the rules for him and so we're still in."
Hearing the news, the Blues Devils let out a small cheer before getting back to preparation for Friday's showdown with No. 3 Cabrillo.
"It was a little tense," McCall said of the protest. "I let (the team) know we were in on Sunday, and then had to explain the situation to them on Monday.
"I'd tabulated the formula and it worked out how I expected."
According to MC athletic director Steve Cassady, the problem stemmed from MJC coach Eric Fisher's interpretations of the rules.
"There are six different forms of criteria used to determine the seeds," Cassady said. "One says conference finish supersedes the formula.
"The Modesto coach felt that the criteria should be weighed towards the better conference, giving them the spot over us. It isn't."
Modesto finished tied for third in the Big 8 conference, but lost the tie-breaker to Santa Rosa.
MC also finished third in the Coast Conference.
Since the two teams came from different conferences, it came down to the disputed formula, which favored Merced.
The incident has only fueled MC's desire to make an impact at the NorCals.
"We were a little angered by the protest," Chris Tanzillo said. "What matters is that we're in, and we want to make the most of it."
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.