Girls water polo preview: Johansen goalie Lopez has been big reason Vikings excelled this season

Johansen High girls water polo coach Brent Bohlender said he was proud of goalie Melyssa Lopez for her play this season.

Lopez was voted goalie of the year in the Modesto Metro Conference on Wednesday.

Bohlender hopes Lopez will step up again when host Johansen plays Merced at 3 p.m. Friday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Girls Water Polo Tournament.

"At first we thought goalie was our most susceptible position," Bohlender said. "But Melyssa Lopez has developed into a pretty doggone good player."

Bohlender said he knew some quality offensive players were coming back, but goalie was an important position for a team looking to go deep into the playoffs.

If Johansen gets there, it will have to go through Davis-Yolo and St. Francis High of Sacramento.

St. Francis defeated Davis-Yolo in the finals the last two years -- Davis-Yolo won the previous five years in a row.

Johansen won it four years in a row from 1996-99, but hasn't been back to the championship game since 2003.

Bohlender is optimistic about this year's team.

"This isn't one of our strongest teams, but we're moving along really well," Bohlender said. "We thought we had a chance of winning our league, but we didn't know how far we could go in sections. Hopefully we'll play well."

Another player who Bohlender said stepped up was senior Jodi Hanson, who was a second-team all-MMC player last year and this year was the Most Valuable Player.

The Vikings (14-0 MMC) take on Merced (10-2), which finished second in the Central California Conference. Pitman (12-0) won the CCC title while Golden Valley (7-5) finished third.

Davis High (11-3) and Modesto (11-3) tied for second in the MMC. Davis will play Pitman in the first round and the Panthers will play Lodi.

Bee staff writer Scott Oxarart can be reached at or 578-2300.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star