Seasons end for Downey, Johansen water polo

jcortez@modbee.comNovember 9, 2013 

It was a rough day at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 water polo playoffs for the Modesto Metro Conference co-champions.

Both Downey and Johansen suffered blowout losses — the Knights fell 22-10 to Merced and the Vikings lost 14-5 to Jesuit (Carmichael) — and saw their seasons come to an emphatic end on Saturday at the B. Brent Bohlender Aquatics Facility on the Johansen High campus.

But for the Vikings' Grant Plunkett, there was at least a consolation prize. The senior hole-set scored four goals and, in doing so, became the all-time single-season goal scorer at Johansen High with 185.

"I had no idea," Plunkett said after he was informed by his coach, Erica Crain, in a post-match team huddle.

C'mon, Grant.

"No, really, I had no idea. Three weeks ago I was in the office with Brent and he told me, 'You're not even close, forget it.' "

But for the last month of the season, Plunkett caught fire and entered Saturday's opener two behind John Jacobs' record of 183, set 20 years ago.

"I don't put statistics up," Bohlender said. "I get all that to the players at the end of the year.

"I don't think it's fair to the record holder if a player knows how many goals he needs to break the record. The other player didn't have that advantage of knowing how many he needed to score. But that's just me ... that's old-school stuff."

That was about the only highlight for the Vikings against the Marauders, have won four section titles since 2006.

Jesuit led 13-1 by halftime and emptied their bench of reserves with a little less than 3 minutes left in the third quarter.

Crain was asked if it was frustrating to watch her players become frustrated by having so little success in their home pool.

"I'm not too disappointed in our season," Plunkett said. "We were co-champs in the MMC, and after losing so many guys last year, I don't think anybody expected us to make the playoffs. I'm definitely content with the season we had, even if it wasn't our best showing in the first round."

Downey, co-champs with Johansen but the MMC's No. 1 seed, ran into a tough Merced team that utilized a press-and-counter attack to perfection.

"We don't play a lot of teams like that in the (Modesto Metro Conference)," said Downey coach Tim Vesey, whose team won a league championship for the first time since the school began playing water polo four decades ago. "But it was a great season for us. I'm satisfied with how it turned out. We made a great run here at the end."

After the first period, Bears coach Kit Grattan was not happy with his players' defensive effort. And he let them know about it.

"I thought it was soft," said Grattan, who earned his first postseason victory as a varsity water polo coach. "I thought Downey was fairly successful early in the match getting the ball in. I got after 'em a little bit, and the second quarter was much better."

Even though Merced increased the defensive pressure, Downey scored as many goals — two — in the second quarter as it did in the first.

"That's why the DeLong Tournament was such a shocker," said senior co-captain Sam Ciccarelli, referring to the annual tournament that features a deep and talented field from teams throughout the state. "We never play teams that press that hard. You saw the outcome."

All things considered, Ciccarelli considered 2013 a successful season.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "Winning a league title ... what more could I ask for? I'm happy."

• ATWATER 10, TOKAY 7 — Josh Heller scored five goals as the Falcons pulled away in the second half for the win.

With starter Jordan Esparaza out of the game in the first half, Atwater's Brody Patterson came up big with two goals and three steals.

"When a guy like that goes out, I have to get involved more offensively," Patterson said. "I have to take some shots from the perimeter I normally wouldn't take."

The Falcons (26-5) will face Lodi on Monday at Tokay High in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m.

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