The Vintage boys water polo team had just defeated rival Napa High 13-11 on Tuesday afternoon in their first Big Game of the season, and that’s usually a reason for the winners to to celebrate.
After the postgame handshake line, however, head coach Mackenzie Anderson and the Crushers quickly left the Vintage Aquatic Center and huddled in a circle outside. After a quick chat, Anderson left her team alone and the roughly 15 players had a team meeting to discuss the second half of the contest.
“We got complacent and they’re playing lazy. They’re overconfident and they need to figure this out,” Anderson said. “They played a fantastic first quarter. They came out and played like they know they can play. They communicated very well together, but then they just thought that was enough. It is a four-quarter game and they need to step it up.”
The defending Vine Valley Athletic League champions opened the Big Game strong, as just 11 seconds into the contest Nico D’Angelo put the Crushers up 1-0 with a shot from the middle of the pool. Napa answered back a minute later, when Jake O’Connor threw a pass to Lucas Brandon and the junior found the back of the net.
The rest of the first quarter was all Vintage, as the Crushers looked like the VVAL power they were last season. Phillip Ross grabbed his first goal at the four-minute mark and D’Angelo wouldn’t be stopped for the second time just two minutes later. Sean Pratt followed up D’Angelo only 20 seconds later with a breakaway goal. Carson Bacci capped off the Crushers’ blitz with one of the prettier goals of the game, as he put some touch on his shot for a fadeaway right corner goal with only four seconds remaining in the quarter.
“I felt we didn’t come out in the first quarter very strong and they got ahead,” Napa’s Lucas Brandon said. “We definitely pulled it around in the second half, though. If we had kept playing like that, it’s a better game, definitely.”
Vintage started off the second frame just like the first, as D’Angelo completed his hat trick with a hard shot from the left side of the pool less than a minute into the quarter. D’Angelo had a well-rounded game, as the junior had three goals on five shots, four assists and 10 steals for the contest.
The Grizzlies started to bounce back in the second quarter, as freshman Kaliq Khan was able to swim up the left and barely sneak in a goal off the top crossbar. The Crushers had the answer for the Napa momentum, as Theo Llewelyn took a shot from the middle and scored just 19 seconds after Khan’s goal. Napa’s Kadel Hock saw an opportunity and connected on a goal from the halfway mark in the pool. Hock picked up his second goal after a pass from Aidan Ramblas gave the senior an opening. Vintage managed to counter another string of Grizzlies goals, as Llewelyn swung his arm around the outstretched arms of Napa goalkeeper Gibson Page for the score. The Crushers lead at the halftime break 8-4.
Luke Galles was a key standout for Vintage in the second half, opening the scoring with a sidearm shot a minute in. Napa started its second-half rally with a solid opportunity goal, as netminder Page found Hock with a cross-pool pass for a breakaway score. Just 30 seconds later, Hock found the net again with a pass from Ramblas and the senior finished the contest with his game-high fifth goal late in the third quarter. Llewelyn completed his hat trick to keep Vintage at a four-goal advantage after a steal.
The Crushers bounced it back up to a five-point lead, as D’Angelo made a cross-pool pass to a wide-open Galles to finish off the third hat trick for Vintage on the afternoon.
For the second time, O’Connor found Brandon for the junior’s second goal. Tyler Kortie added a rally-killing goal for Vintage, popping the ball over the goalkeeper’s head for the score. Napa had some solid passing to set up its next score, as Ramblas started off a six-pass sequence that ended up back with the senior powering home a shot.
The Grizzlies continued to ride the wave of momentum in the fourth quarter, as Hock found O’Connor for an easy goal after a steal. Napa’s last goal came with less than 30 seconds remaining, as Brandon completed a penalty shot with a slick bounce shot. Kortie only had one goal for the game, but filled up the stat sheet with seven steals and added three assists.
“We have seen how it feels to lose a close game and we will want it next time definitely,” Brandon said. “We saw some guys get hot and we started feeding them and if we take that into effect earlier and we just have to see that and capitalize on that.”
“They came out strong,” Brandon said. “We just got to match their pace next time and we’ve seen how they do it, now we can come back and do it next game.”
The victory gave Vintage sole possession of second place in the VVAL, with a showdown against first-place Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa on Thursday.
Napa 11, Vintage 1
Less than two minutes in, the Grizzlies had given goalkeeper Caitlyn Berryhill a two-goal lead, and that was all the senior needed as Napa cruised past the Crushers.
“I think that kind of start is the best pump-up you can get. You’re dominating the first part and it was all energy from that,” Berryhill said. “You just gotta keep it going and you just keep trucking through and that does give you that extra little boost. It just allows us to kinda increase our energy even so much more.”
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Berryhill seemed to be always in the right spot, as the senior stopped 14 shots and had some highlight-reel saves. Meena Khan was a wrecking ball in the first quarter, as the senior grabbed her first of many goals in just 45 seconds. Khan was slotted a pass by Maddie Alexander and buried it in the back of the net less than 30 seconds later. The daughter of Napa head coach Ashiq Khan finished off a hat trick in the first quarter as Khan received another well-timed pass, this time from Emily Dusky for the goal.
The Grizzlies found other outlets, with sophomore Keaton Flynn finding freshman Quincy Frommelt for their fourth goal of the frame.
Vintage was able to win the opening sprint in three of the four quarters.
“A lot of the times, the more competitive the game the more competitive I get. I am a very competitive person and during the game I was pumping myself up,” Berryhill said. “I would say to myself ‘I got this,’ and then just after that very first block, I was like, ‘Oh, I got this.’ That energy just kept going and going and going.”
Coach Khan said Berryhill inspires her team.
“Our whole team rallies around her and not only from a defensive side, but she also adds some eyes to the offense as well,” he said. “So when she’s playing well and the other people who are around her and relying on her can also see that she’s doing well, then it just boosts everybody up and that ends up being good all the way around.”
Dusky picked up her second assist of the game early in the second, as the senior connected with Rina Klieman. The sophomore blasted a shot from the right side of the pool and found the left side of the net. Napa may have a strong duo for the future, as the underclassmen found each other again with two minutes left in the second quarter.
Frommelt grabbed her second goal from Flynn and Angelina Adams lobbed in a goal from the middle of the pool to put the Grizzlies up 7-0 at halftime. The Napa offensive assault was consistent all game and the Grizzlies would have scored more goals if it wasn’t for the solid play of Crushers goalkeeper Toni Dodson, as the net minder grabbed herself 10 saves for the game.
“Well, we got kind of lucky because we came out with a game plan that we ended up executing, but didn’t necessarily match to what we thought they were going to throw at us,” Khan said. “So that worked in our favor. Which was good and we tried to press up on them and continue to force them to try and make mistakes, we made our own fair share of mistakes, but you know, between some good defense, some steals and the goalkeeper we’re able keep that margin wide.”
It was a defensive standstill for most of the third quarter, but Alexander broke through the Crushers’ defense with a shot up the middle. Berryhill’s lone blemish in net was a penalty shot that she caused by impeding Sophia Samson. Sofia Leonardini took the free shot and Berryhill almost blocked it, as the goalkeeper was able to tip the shot before it bounced into the side netting. Samson added four steals and Rachel Galvin had a team high five steals for the Crushers.
The Grizzlies capitalized on a penalty shot of their own in the fourth quarter, as Dusky picked up her first goal of the contest with a nasty multiple bounce shot to the left side of the goal. They added two more goals in the final quarter to complete the Big Game rout.
“You know, for the ladies it’s huge because they came into this not thinking that we were going to do so well. We know that all of these girls and all the coaches and we are a water polo community,” Ashiq Khan said. “They went into it a little gun-shy and thinking that we weren’t going to do so well, but the confidence we gained early really boosted us well and so I think that it’s going to be huge moving forward to the second half of the season.”
Vintage will welcome Cardinal Newman on Thursday, while Napa will square off with Castro Valley in the Crocker/Martinez Tournament on Friday afternoon.
“I think this game shows how much we’ve improved as well, like in a short time, and how prior to the season we had trouble as a team,” Berryhill said. “At this point, halfway through the season, we’re able to really work as a team and dominate in a pool and make it our pool. It is a great feeling. It really gives me hope for the future of how much more we can prove.”
Vintage 17, Napa 2
Nico Solorio led the Crushers with 7 goals, Erik Kvidahl and Carson McClintick scored 4 apiece, and Sam Gomez and Austin Whitehead each scored once. Sawyer Bristow led in assists with 4, Kvidahl and Brandon Tennant had 2 each, and Gomez, McClintick and Matteo Roldan each had 1.
Solorio also led Vintage with 6 steals, while Kvidahl and McClintick had 2 each and Bristow, Whitehead, Tennant, Kyle Link, and Nico Hauck DeLeon each had 1. In goal, Matthew Lloyd had 5 saves, 1 assist and 1 steal, while CJ Tiebout contributed 6 saves and 2 steals.