The Merced High boys water polo team has watched a four-goal lead evaporate against Buhach Colony the last time both teams squared off in the pool.
So the Bears were a little nervous when the Thunder quickly cut a four-goal deficit to to just one late in the third quarter.
Two straight goals from Erek Ball, including one from long distance that slipped through the hands of Buhach Colony goalie Andre Dalia, helped Merced regain momentum as the Bears held on for a 9-8 win. The loss was the first Central California Conference defeat for the Thunder (12-5 overall, 7-1 CCC).
“We jumped out to a 4-0 lead the last time we played them and then they kind of rolled us,” said Merced coach Kit Grattan, whose team improved to 5-2 in the CCC. “I think playing Sonora in our last game and winning against a big, physical team similar to Buhach Colony, helped us. In the back of our minds we knew we could do this.”
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Easton Hamm scored all four of his goals to help Merced take a 5-3 lead at the half. The Bears extended the lead to 7-3 with goals from Nick Eccles and Ball midway through the third quarter.
The Thunder quickly struck back with two goals from Brayden Fookes and a goal from Colin McIlhatton with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
Gratton called timeout to stop the Buhach Colony momentum and the Bears came out and finished the job.
“I think we started to play a little better on defense and we communicated as a team,” Grattan said. “We moved move on the offensive end. We got one big goal from Erek Ball that went through their hands. That was a big goal for us.”
Jack Bustabade finished with three goals and three steals for BC. Dalia finished with 10 saves.
Merced goalie Owen Krieger played well with nine saves and four steals. Eccles finished with two goals and 10 steals.
El Capitan 19, Atwater 6 in Merced – Rocco Cuttone scored five goals and Samir Alkouri added four goals as the Gauchos moved into a first place time in the CCC with Buhach Colony at 7-1.
Kaileb Michael scored two goals and added five assists for the Gauchos.
Girls Water Polo
Buhach Colony 9, Merced 6 in Atwater – The Thunder avenged a loss to the Bears earlier this season as Erin McBride scored seven goals.
Gabi Perez added one goal and nine steals for the Thunder (5-2 CCC).
“It was unreal how intense our practices were this week,” McBride said. “Our coach A.J. (Abril) pushes us so hard. I’ve never seen him this fired up.”
Madeline Hall scored four goals for the Bears (5-2 CCC).
Ripon Christian 3, Le Grand 0 in Ripon – The Bulldogs snapped their 10 game winning streak in the Southern League with a 28-26, 25-17, 25-19 loss to the Knights.
Alexa Ultreras led Le Grand (10-1 SL) with 10 kills, two aces and two blocks. Priscilla Barnett added nine kills.
Stone Ridge Christian 3, Millennium 0 in Merced – Sadi Tucker recorded 11 kills and five aces to help the Knights improve to 24-6 overall and 10-0 in the Central California Athletic Alliance. Sasha Stillman and Maartje Vander dussen both added 10 kills.
Merced 198, Central Valley 244 in Modesto – Kaitlyn Neely (35), Aubreanne Aponte (39) and Laurne Palumbo (39) helped the Bears improve to 11-0 in the CCC.
El Captian 272, Buhach Colony (forfeit) in Atwater – Lauren Gudgel shot a 45 to help the Gauchos pick up a win. Caitlin Garcia also finished with a round of 45 for Buhach Colony, which only had three golfers.