Merced girls end water polo tourney on high note

sjansen@mercedsunstar.comOctober 14, 2012 

— Kristie Dunham wanted to know how her team would respond after a lopsided loss to Nevada Union on Saturday.

The Merced girls water polo coach must have liked what she saw.

Alison Miller scored six goals as the Bears (18-9) defeated Vintage 9-5 to finish 19th in the 57-team Western States girls water polo tournament at Johansen.

"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."

The Bears were never really in their game against Nevada Union earlier on Saturday. Nicole Blaney scored seven goals as the Miners defeated Merced 12-4.

Miller made sure the Bears finished the tournament on a high note, scoring the first six goals for Merced.

Merced leaned on its star heavily on Saturday with Miller scoring 15 of the Bears' 22 goals in their three games. She scored five goals in Merced's 9-5 win over Oak Ridge and all four of the Bears' goals against Nevada Union.

"We're going to have to find other scorers," Dunham said. "Everyone knows to beat Merced you have to take out number two."

One player who may fill that role is Jane Eckles, who scored three goals against Vintage.

"It's going to be really important to get other scorers," Miller said. "I've played on teams for a lot of the coaches in the section or I'm friends with a lot of the coaches. They're going to try to shut me down.

"I think Jane Eckles has really stepped up. I like the way she's been playing."

Buhach Colony went 1-2 on Saturday at Johansen to finish in 23rd place.

The Thunder opened Saturday's play with an 8-5 loss to Vintage.

Johansen then got a goal from Marisa Tolemei with 37 seconds left in the game in a 10-9 win over the Thunder.

Buhach Colony salvaged the day with a 13-12 win over Oak Ridge with the help of seven goals from Paloma Salazar.

Thunder coach Betsy Bell feels the tournament will help prepare her team for the playoffs.

"A lot of the teams we played here are better than the teams we see in league," Bell said. "It forces our players to step up. We learned what we need to work on for the second half of the season."

Golden Valley went 0-3 on the day.

Atwater went 1-2, including a 5-4 win over Golden Valley.

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