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Merced College water polo: Eighth time lucky

Chris Tanzillo has met most of his goals in his two years at Merced College, but two glaring holes remain in his Blue Devils' resume.

The water polo star has never qualified for the state tournament and the MC sophomores are a collective 0-7 against Cabrillo College in the last two years.

Both can be rectified as the Blue Devils host this weekend's NorCal tournament.

MC is the sixth seed in the tournament and will open up Friday afternoon against No. 3 Cabrillo.

The top three teams out of the six-team field advance to next week's state tournament, also in Merced.

"We're going to beat them," Tanzillo said. "We're definitely due.

"We couldn't have asked for a more perfect first-round match."

The Blue Devils have faced Cabrillo three times this season, dropping all three by a total of seven goals.

MC lost 10-7 in overtime at the end of October and then dropped a bitter match 8-7 last week in the Coast Conference tournament.

"We had two chances in the final seconds of the game and just couldn't get the ball in," Tanzillo said. "We need to take care of business this time."

The winner of the matchup face No. 2 Diablo Valley in the second round.

The winner of that game will play for the NorCal title, the loser will play for third place.

The Blue Devils basically need two wins to make that state tournament, with the key being making it to Saturday.

"I like our chances," Tanzillo said. "The team really came together last weekend and we play so much better in our own pool than anywhere else."

Consolation prize

Bill Russell isn't a man easily impressed, but he had to admit he was pleased with his men's basketball team's start to the season.

After falling to Foothill 71-60 in the opening round of the San Jose City Tournament last weekend, Russell's young team ran off consecutive victories to win the consolation title.

Sophomore Lavell Shipman led the Blue Devils with 16.3 points per game and freshmen Logan Wiens and John Lowe each chipped in 10.3.

Improvising

A scheduling conflict with the Lassen College women's basketball team left MC coach Allen Huddleston with a hole to fill for the Lady Devils Coca-Cola Tournament, which gets underway today.

Knowing most teams would already have their schedules set with about a month to go before the start of the season, Huddleston turned to some of his former players to help fill the void.

The Blue Devils will open the tournament tonight against a club team comprised of former MC stars like Maria Garcia, Rachel Martinez, Lakeya Sears and many more.

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.

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