When John Wallace took over the leadership of Los Banos High's girls water polo program, his priority was to find someone to play in the goal.
"One of the hardest things a coach can do is convince someone to play the goalie," Wallace said. "Most kids want to be in the field so they get more action. Plus, there is a lot of stress being the last line of defense."
Kate Howard, however, is an exception to the rule. After being in the field last season, the 6-foot-2-inch Wallace moved to the cage this fall.
Her decision has proved beneficial for the Tigers (4-2), who beat Turlock 9-6 Tuesday to stay in the hunt for one of the Central California Conference's two playoff berths. Unbeaten Merced has the inside track for one with the Tigers, Atwater and Golden Valley battling for the other berth.
Los Banos split two matches with Atwater -- losing in conference and winning in a tournament -- and has lost twice to GV, in overtime and sudden death. The Tigers also fell to Merced in five overtimes, a marathon that displayed LB's improvement.
"Katie has really improved our defense," Wallace said. "She uses her height well, and she's a good athlete. Those are good qualities in the goal.
"People are throwing things at your face, and they're coming hard. It takes courage to stand up to those throws."
At the other end of the pool Tuesday, Mallory Howard had three goals and Kara Orr and Jessica Witt two each. Jennifer Cobb, the Tigers' top scorer this year, was held to one.
"We had trouble in the past when a defense would zone in on Jennifer," Wallace said. "We've reached a point where the girls are confident in their shots. Five of our six starters scored."
TURLOCK 8, LOS BANOS 1, at Los Banos -- The Bulldogs (6-0) continued their march through the CCC by beating the Tigers (3-3). Jasmine Bohannon won Los Banos' only point, beating Ashlyn Castro in the No. 2 singles competition.
ENOCHS 4, BEYER 3, at Enochs -- The Eagles (4-5 Modesto Metro Conference) beat the Patriots (6-3 MMC) for the first time since opening in 2006, thanks to a marathon win by No. 3 singles player Kayla Lunt. A sophomore playing tennis for the first time, Lunt defeated Harleen Sethi 5-7, 6-4, 10-8, giving the Eagles their fourth point and the win.
"She has the potential to be a pretty good player," said Enochs' Chris Wilkinson, who coached Beyer last year. All three Enochs doubles teams also won.
BEYER 254, ENOCHS 282, at Creekside -- Angela Nuccio (7-over-par 43) and Kayla Grey (9-over 45) helped the Patriots (11-2) beat the Eagles (5-7) and stay on the heels of first-place Johansen. Johansen (12-1) beat Beyer in two of three head-to-head meetings.
HILMAR 239, GUSTINE 252, at Stevinson Ranch -- Keeley Pettigrew chipped in for a birdie on the 120-yard No. 7, and the Yellowjackets (5-7 Valley Foothill League) shot a season-low 239 to top the Redskins (2-9).
RIPON 3, MODESTO CHR. 0, at Salida -- The Indians (26-3, 7-0 Trans-Valley) continued to roll through league play, as Kirsten Duren knocked home 10 kills and Meredith Perkins was flying around the court for 27 digs to beat the Crusaders (8-7, 2-5).