Kathryn Elgin admits to being a hothead when she was younger.
The abuse the Merced senior took while playing in the 2-meter spot didn’t roll off of her back nearly as easily as the water turned up by those battles. While Elgin wouldn’t go into a Hulk-like rage, she said the wear and tear over the course of a match would get her off of her game.
The more mature Elgin uses such altercations as fuel to an already extremely competitive fire. It showed on Thursday afternoon as Turlock threw everything they had at her after Elgin scored Merced’s first five goals. It was an effective tactic for the second and third quarters, but a blow to the head in the fourth quarter seemed to push Elgin too far.
With her team staked to a one-goal lead and just under three minutes er team staked to a one-goal lead and just under three minutes to play, Elgin drew two kick-outs while holding the ball at the point. She quickly found Stephanie Hart for a man-up goal and then fired in a skip shot from the right wing the next time down the pool. The Bulldogs never threatened again as the Bears pulled away for a 14-11 victory.
“When I was younger I definitely used to lose my cool in those situations,” Elgin said. “I don’t like when that stuff happens. I think some of their girls went a little overboard, but I just tried to use it to motivate me.
“Getting those last two goals to finish it off made me forget all about it. It felt wonderful.”
With Elgin as the catalyst, Merced (7-3, 4-0 Central California Conference) raced out to a 4-0 lead at the end of one period.
Turlock regrouped and answered with a 4-0 run to start the second quarter. Allison Serratos led the way with two of her four goals in the quarter, helping send the teams into the half tied 6-6.
“We knew what we had to do to be successful against them,” Turlock coach Sonja Rayns said. “I felt like we adjusted really well after the first quarter. And we were right there with them in shots. We just didn’t hit the cage when we needed to.
“Our timing on our shots was good. We earned good looks. We just didn’t finish as well as them.”
With the defense focused on her, Elgin (team-high seven goals, five assists) turned to distributor after the break. She found Hart (three goals) on back-to-back possessions down the left wing to take a 8-6 lead to start the second half. The Bears managed to keep that two-goal edge going to the fourth.
“The thing I really enjoy about this team is that they never stop working,” Merced coach Seth Gentry said. “They always seems to rebound well, and they did after a tough second quarter. Turlock did a good job taking the ball out of Kathryn’s hands on offense, but other girls seized the opportunity and stepped up.
“When teams do that, we can kind of back off a bit. But the girls stayed aggressive today. Stephanie had a big game for us and Maddie (Hall) came through with her first two goals of the season.”
Turlock could never get things even again in the fourth and Elgin finished things off with her late goal and assist.
As good as the girls’ matchup was, the boys game that followed was every bit as intense as two of the CCC favorites squared off.
Merced led a tightly contested affair 1-0 after one, and then a goal barrage erupted in the second quarter with the two undefeated teams going into the break tied 7-7.
Jacob Bradley led the Bulldog attack with a game-high eight goals, while Jared Bernardi scored four. Merced (13-1, 4-0 CCC) countered with six goals from Sam Kuykendall and five from Ethan Eagleton.
No one led by more than two goals the entire game until the Bears broke it open with a 4-0 run in the fourth quarter. Kuykendall, Alec Probes, Isaac Santana and Eagleton all scored to give Merced a 15-11 lead. Nathan Latronica (five saves) helped make it stand up as the Bears held on for a 16-13 victory.
“We knew we were in for a huge battle,” Merced coach Kit Grattan said. “We were at that tournament a little while ago and we finished third, while they won it, so we came in a little bit of an underdog. We told them this was a championship game and they needed to come prepared to play.
“I felt like they were. I thought we defended really well except for the second quarter and we executed on offense when we needed to.”