Central Catholic girls water polo team reaches playoffs despite having only seven players

jcortez@modbee.comNovember 6, 2013 

— It takes seven players to field a water polo team, and that's exactly how many players Central Catholic's girls team has on its roster.

"After golf season, Rachel Purl came out," said Raiders coach Sally Roberts. "That gave us a sub."

Since then, goalie Caitlyn Duval transferred to Turlock High, and the Raiders are back down to seven.

But seven is all you need and that was enough to get Central Catholic into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 postseason dance, which gets underway today at Woodcreek High School in Roseville. The Raiders, the second seed from the Western Athletic Conference, will play El Camino (Sacramento), the Capital Athletic League's No. 2 seed. Game time is 6:45 p.m.

Also seeing action today is Valley Oak League No. 1 Oakdale, which will take on Whitney (Rocklin) at 3 p.m. Los Banos, the WAC's top seed, will take on Sonora, the VOL's third seed, at 11:15 a.m.

Roberts, who has a self-proclaimed passion for coaching, was a late hire, and didn't have time to put together a preseason schedule. For that matter, she didn't have much time to learn the game. Roberts background is in track and field. She picked up the finer points of water polo by watching her daughter, 2010 Davis graduate Olivia Brown, play in high school.

"I did a lot of studying online, I read a lot of books and Olivia made me cheat-sheets," said Brown.

And it didn't hurt that Stacy Jones joined the team. Jones, who has played three sports, in addition to travel leagues, since seventh grade, was burned out. But when the situation was explained to her, she decided to play.

"I love playing water polo and I probably would've regretted not playing," said Jones, the Raiders' best player and one of two seniors on the team. "She's one of the best coaches I've ever had. The fact that she's so dedicated makes us more dedicated. We learn from her and she learns from us. I look up to her so much."

While the odds are stacked against the Raiders even winning a game in the tournament — after all, they had full participation at a practice for the first time all season on Tuesday — Roberts is just happy that athletic director Billy Hylla gave her an opportunity.

"When Billy asked me earlier this year, I told him if he couldn't find anybody else, I'd do it," said Roberts. "It ended up being much more than that. It ended up being pretty special."

MORE WATER POLO — The Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 tournament gets started on Friday at Johansen High School, with four Stanislaus District teams ready for action.

Modesto Metro Conference champ Downey takes on Nevada Union (Grass Valley) at 9 a.m., while Central California Conference champ Merced takes on Tokay (Lodi) at 10 a.m. In the afternoon, Modesto plays St. Mary's (Stockton) at 2, with Atwater facing St. Francis (Sacramento) at 3.

In Division 1 boys, MMC champion Downey takes on CCC runner-up Merced at 9 a.m. Saturday at Johansen High. Johansen plays Jesuit (Carmichael) at noon and CCC champ Atwater faces Tokay at 3 p.m. In Division 2, VOL champ Sonora takes on Whitney on Saturday at a 10:30 a.m. at Whitney High. Ceres faces Dixon at 11:45 a.m. and Los Banos and Ripon square off at 2:15 p.m.

TENNIS — The Sac-Joaquin Section D1 and D2 individual tennis tournaments get underway today at the Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville. The Division 2 competition gets rolling at 10:45 a.m., while the Division 1 tourney begins 15 later. Action for both divisions starts at 11 a.m. on Friday.

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