State

Playoff Splashdown

Playing three against one hardly seems like a fair contest, but Johansen High wasn't interested in equity -- the Vikings' sole focus Saturday was on winning.

"If I have a guy who can score from two meters, one who scores on a counterattack and one who scores outside, that's a big advantage," Johansen boys' water polo coach Brent Bohlender said.

The Vikings capitalized on their multiple scorers, and silenced Pitman's lone threat, during a 15-2 rout to open the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in their pool.

Pitman two-meter player Josh Day was the Central California Conference MVP, but with little offensive support, he was overwhelmed by Johansen's defense.

"We were double-teaming him and denying him the opportunity to shoot," said Bohlender, after his club held Day to one goal.

Even when Day did get a shot, goalie Steve Giahos was usually there to block it. Just as quickly, Giahos would fling a long pass to spark Johansen's counterattack.

Brad Fuller was on the receiving end of many of the throws, with a defender desperately trying to catch up and forced to foul to prevent an easy shot on goal. That just delayed the inevitable, as Fuller scored his five goals on five-meter penalty shots -- one-on-one duels against the goalie.

"Penalty shots usually come if a defender is behind the shooter and fouls him to deny what was probably going to be a goal," said Bohlender. "The goalie's lead pass is what initiates the play."

Two-meter player Sean Towers had five goals and Steve Solario scored two from outside.

"A team might decide to try and stop Sean, and a good team might even stop our second option, but then we've still got Steve outside," Bohlender noted. "Pitman gave us the two-meter from the beginning, so we took advantage of that. Then later we used the counterattack with Brad."

In other openers involving local teams, Modesto beat Vintage of Napa 13-10, Turlock topped Oakdale 14-6 and Sonora was a 14-9 winner over Napa. Golden Valley lost 16-6 to Davis-Yolo.

Turlock coach Steve Feaver credited his team's transition game with providing the easy victory, as the Bulldogs repeatedly beat Oakdale down the pool and exploited its advantage.

"Some teams release a player during the play, like cherry-picking, but we finish playing defense before we go to offense" he said. "We will read our opponent. When we anticipate a shot is coming, someone on top will release and look for a long pass."

Boasting the faster swimmers, Turlock's strategy kept Oakdale from committing all its players to attacking goalie Kirk Phillips. The Bulldogs' balanced attack -- Zac Young scored five, and Eric Bonander and Taylor Sellers had three each -- kept Oakdale's defense spread across the pool.

Turlock's 9-3 conference mark was the worst among the six conference champs in the playoffs, and the Bulldogs will be an underdog in the quarterfinals.

"Our league was unusual this year, with everyone being so equal," Feaver said. "That parity helped us get to the playoffs, because it's not often you can win the CCC with three losses."

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