Merced has a 'Big Three' in pool

Sjansen@mercedsunstar.comOctober 31, 2012 

Playing with teammates like Brett Fogelberg and Isaac Santana, it's easy for Matt Cagle to get lost in the crowd.

That's the way the Merced High junior likes it.

With opposing teams focused on Fogelberg and Santana, it frees up Cagle to have an impact on the game. Cagle is a big reason the Bears went 24-3 in water polo this season, including a perfect 10-0 run to a Central California Conference championship.

Cagle was second on the team in assists, third in scoring and led the team in steals.

"The thing I like about Matt is (that) Brett and Isaac stand out, but he's on their level and doesn't know it," Merced coach Steve Eccles said. "He's humble. The thing about Matt is it's not about him. As a coach, I love that. He's a guy who never gives me a headache."

Cagle and the Bears open up the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs on Friday against Del Oro at Johansen High in Modesto at 9 a.m.

Cagle's emergence this year has given the Bears a "Big Three" much like the Miami Heat.

"With everybody focused on Brett and Isaac, it allows him to flow a bit," Eccles said.

"It's kind of like basketball. You have LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The kids like to nickname themselves that, too.

"You can't guard everybody," he added.

Cagle never stops going in the pool. On defense, he takes turns with Patrick Roberts guarding the opponent's top scoring threat.

Offensively, he helps set up Fogelberg or Santana, or he's always moving to get himself open for an easy goal.

"I'm kind of the middle guy," Cagle said. "I don't have the main role on offense. I don't have the main role on defense. I help out on both ends.

"I'm always going. We always need a guy to drive. The more motion you have the more mistakes defenses can make. That opens up more opportunities for the offense."

Also opening the playoffs on Friday will be Atwater and Buhach Colony.

The Thunder won a three-way coin toss with Golden Valley and Turlock to earn the CCC's third playoff spot. Their reward is an 8 a.m. first-round game against top-seed Davis of Yolo and one of the top players in the nation in Connor Stapleton.

The Falcons will square off against Tokay at 2 p.m.

The girls playoffs begin Saturday at Johansen in Modesto with Buhach Colony playing Del Oro at 11 a.m. and Merced opening up against Modesto at 1 p.m.

Cagle and his teammates want to prolong their season as long as possible.

"This year has been great," he said. "This team has so much talent. Not a lot of teams get to have great seasons like we've had. At times, you take it for granted. It really is a privilege to play on such a good team.

"We just want to do the best we can. It's been a great season so far. We want to peak in the playoffs. We don't want the best part of our season to have already happened."


Water Polo Playoffs

Boys Division 1

First Round, Friday

Buhach Colony vs. Davis Sr., 8 a.m.

Merced vs. Del Oro, 9 a.m.

Atwater vs. Tokay, 1 p.m.

Girls Division 1

First Round, Saturday

Buhach Colony vs. Del Oro, 11 a.m.

Merced vs. Modesto, 1 p.m.

Division 2

Los Banos vs. El Dorado, 2:15 p.m.

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