The Oakdale girls water polo team had a little extra incentive in its final game of the Western States tournament on Saturday.
The Mustangs faced Del Oro in a rematch of last year's Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 final. This time it was Oakdale (15-5) handing the Golden Eagles an 8-5 loss at Johansen High. Del Oro beat Oakdale 10-7 in last year's section final.
"We were really excited and it was a bit nerve wracking after playing them in the section final last year," said Mustangs goalie Hayley Benson, who finished with 12 saves.
Playing their third game of the day and fifth in two days, the Mustangs found the energy to outscore Del Oro 4 to 1 in the fourth quarter.
Oakdale broke a 4-4 tie with two quick goals in transition.
A Del Oro turnover led to a two-on-one situation for Oakdale's Shelby Stender and Cassie Lee. Stender took the ball up the pool. With the defender staying with Lee, Stender scored from close range to give the Mustangs a 5-4 lead with 4 minutes, 16 seconds left in the game.
Less than a minute later, a Del Oro foul gave the ball back to the Mustangs, who struck quickly as Stender passed to Emily Stolkens, who scored to extend the lead to 6-4. Stender and Stolkens each scored three goals.
The Mustangs lost to Rio Americano 5-1 and Clovis North 11-6 earlier in the day, but rebounded to finish seventh in the 57-team field.
"I think that's our best finish ever here," Oakdale coach Diane Kline said. "It shows how much hard work we've put in the past couple years. We've improved each year. It's nice to be in the big pool."
Sonora went 1-2 at Oakdale to finish in 13th place.
Merced (19-8) went 2-1 on Saturday at Johansen to finish 19th. The Bears defeated Vintage of Napa 9-5 behind six goals by Alison Miller.
Merced coach Kristie Dunham was interested to see how her team would come back after losing to Nevada Union 12-4 earlier in the day.
"When I talked to them I told them I want to know how they're going to come out," Dunham said. "I wanted to know if they were going to come out and fold or come out and play like ballers. They responded."
Johansen (15-6) went 1-2 on Saturday. The Vikings opened with a 4-2 loss to Lincoln of Stockton. Johansen then defeated Buhach Colony 10-9 behind a goal by Marisa Tolemei with 37 seconds left in the game.
The Vikings lost to Marin Catholic 8-1 in their final game to finish in 22nd place.
Buhach Colony also went 1-2, winning its final game 13-12 over Oak Ridge with the help of seven goals from Paloma Salazar.
"A lot of the teams we played here are better than the teams we see in league," Thunder coach Betsy Bell said. "It forces our players to step up. We learned what we need to work on for the second half of the season."