Los Banos High’s 9-3 girls water polo victory over Ceres on Wednesday was a lot closer than the score suggests.
The Tigers led 3-2 at halftime and allowed just one goal in the second half.
“We talked about that after the game, about how sometimes that doesn’t go your way, and you have to persevere and keep fighting and keep fighting,” Los Banos coach Bo Halpin said. “In that third and fourth quarter it worked out where Mackenzie Hurley started getting some kickouts, we started getting ball-side drives, and it started paying off, and I think we just outplayed them for four quarters.”
Los Banos scored two in the third to extend its lead, withe a Hurley goal off a Jalynne Hooker assist at 5:50 and an Alex Marquez goal off a Sydney Gerstenberg assist in a 6-on-5 situation at 2:05. After a Ceres kickout, Marquez was left wide open on the wing.
“Their defense just tightened up and battened down the hatches for this game,” Halpin said. “And I think our defense was great this week too. They scored three, but two of the three they scored we blocked and they kind of dribbled in. I’m happy with out defense going into the end of the season and going into playoffs.”
Both teams played tenacious defense, but LB’s defense ends with goalkeeper Gerstenberg, who blocked 17 of Ceres’ 20 shots on goal. By contrast, 7 of LB’s 16 shots on goal were blocked.
“It’s nice when they shoot at me, in my arm span,” Gerstenberg said. “Our defense is great. That’s what really helps me and makes me look good. I have to say, when the seniors leave, I’m going to have a whole lot more balls coming at me. It’ll be a lot tougher.”
While the defense in front of her has been stingy, Gerstenberg has grown in her second season in the cage for the Tigers.
“I think I’ve gotten better. I can eggbeater higher now, and I can reach the corners easier,” the junior said. “I’m more confident in myself as a goalie, and I’m not afraid to take risks.”
Hurley started off the fourth quarter with a pair of goals – off passes from Cristina Vance and Cheyenne Ritchey – that put the game out of reach. Ceres’ only goal in the second half – a high shot that just rolled off Gerstenberg’s fingertips – closed the gap to 7-3 before Ritchey and Marquez put insurance goals in the Ceres net.
Ceres was one of the last major hurdles for the Tigers, who are undefeated in league play, and Halpin said the game was important for more than just the win.
“It’s funny, I’m glad we had a game like that because some of the games we’ve been playing in league has been like, OK, let’s get up and pull our starters, and get everyone some playing time,” Halpin said. “Since we don’t have any more tournaments, we needed a game like that to keep our senses sharp and things like that.”