Erik Zador could tell his team was nervous. It was kind of expected considering a section title was on the line.
The Ripon High boys water polo coach did his best to calm his team after the first quarter. Once the Indians settled down, they dominated, scoring 11 consecutive goals to close out the game in a 13-3 win over Sonora in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game at the Roseville Aquatic Center on Saturday afternoon.
“We have a tendency to come out a little sluggish in the first quarter, especially in a game like this,” Zador said. “There were a lot of nerves. There was a lot to lose. When I talked to them after the first quarter, my point of emphasis was let’s go back to what we do, which is defense and fundamentals.”
Seth Farwell scored his third goal of the game for Sonora on a backhand shot to give the No. 6 seed Wildcats (17-11) a 3-2 lead with 3:22 left in the first half.
Top-seeded Ripon held Sonora scoreless the rest of the way.
“Everybody was nervous,” Indians senior Kole Gonzalez said. “Coach gave us a great speech and basically told us this is our game. Nothing else matters but this.”
The Indians (17-6) closed out the second quarter with three consecutive goals as Gonzalez scored twice and Noah Esenwein added a goal to give Ripon a 5-3 lead at the half.
Ripon then dominated the second half, smothering Sonora on defense and getting out in transition. The Indians worked the ball around efficiently on offense as four different players combined for five third-quarter goals to extend the lead to 10-3.
“We’re a very pass-first and shoot-second team,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone looks ahead. Everyone knows it’s more about the team and not about them.”
Gonzalez led the way with five goals, and Daniel Eisenwein scored three times. Ty Wells and Nick Gagnon added two goals each.
After falling short in the Division II championship game to Rio Americano last season, Ripon was able to bring home the blue banner.
“It feels really good,” Gonzalez said. “This is pretty big, especially since we’re a small school. It’s a great way to go out.”