There were no sad faces. No tears. Only smiles for the El Capitan High School girls water polo team on Saturday at the Roseville Aquatic Center despite losing the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game 10-8 to Kimball.
The Gauchos know the program’s future is bright.
“I’m so proud. There’s no disappointment at all,” Alexandria Jasso said. “We played a great game. We played great defense and great offense. This is going to fuel our fire to make us even working harder for next year.”
With a starting lineup featuring all juniors, El Capitan (21-7) reached the section title game. With everybody returning next year, the expectations are high to get the job done.
“I hope we’ll get more girls to buy into playing year-round,” El Capitan coach Kristie Dunham said. “I think we definitely have some momentum in the program. I proud of what we were able to do this year. With all juniors, we lost the championship game by two points. I got to think having some seniors would have been the difference.”
The Gauchos started strong, as Marion Carpenter, Madison Nolen and Jasso scored to give El Capitan a 3-1 lead after the first quarter.
The Jaguars (17-6) responded by outscoring El Cap 3-1 in the second quarter, and the score was tied 4-4 at halftime.
The Gauchos had a tough time matching up with the speed of Kimball junior Kamryn Lucero, who finished with three goals. Domenica Avila scored two of the Jaguars’ three second-quarter goals.
“Two times in transition we left them open in the middle and they scored both times,” Dunham said. “It’s that help mentality, that I don’t just have to worry about my player. To me, that’s still youth.”
With the Jaguars’ defense focusing on El Capitan scoring leaders Hope Stokes and Metztli Enriquez, Carpenter and Jasso stepped up in the spotlight.
Carpenter scored two goals, assisted on two others and made two steals. Jasso scored a goal and added three assists and three steals.
“I thought Marion Carpenter was the key player to the game as far as offense,” Dunham said. “Metztli and Hope were taken out of the game game by their defense. Carpenter showed what she could do.”
The Gauchos faced a two-goal deficit entering the fourth quarter after Kimball outscored El Capitan 4-2 in the third quarter.
After Meigan Loomis stretched the lead to 9-6, Carpenter and Stokes scored to cut the deficit to 9-8 with 3:28 left. However, the Jaguars held El Capitan scoreless the rest of the way.
“Coming back this year as a second-year team, to get this far is pretty impressive,” Carpenter said. “Next year, we go to the (Central California Conference). We’re going to go after Merced, Golden Valley and those other girls. We want to get back here next year and come back on top.”