#PlayforRyan - Woodcreek earns 13-11 upset over Jesuit

With his teammate hospitalized, Noah Scholar explodes for four goals
By: Steven Wilson,
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Just three days after finding out one of their seniors was hospitalized from a car accident in a little cul-de-sac in Roseville, the Woodcreek boys water polo team hit the water for one of their biggest matches of the season.

Without senior Ryan McHale, who was badly injured late Wednesday night,  the No. 5 seeded Timberwolves took on No. 4 Jesuit in the quarterfinals of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. 

Although many players hadn’t slept since the accident, or eaten much food, the T-Wolves put together one of their best performances in the pool with their friend and teammate on their minds.  

“When we found out what happened to Ryan, it crushed us,” fellow Woodcreek senior Noah Scholar admitted. “He’s a senior, it’s towards the end of the season, and not only is he seriously hurt, but he’s not going to get to play any more water polo in high school. So we put all of our effort into knowing that we’re not just going to win this game for us, or for our school or team, we’re going to win it for him.”

Scholar delivered an eye-popping performance, scoring four goals including the go-ahead goal in the fourth period, as he helped his team earn a 13-11 victory over the Marauders and earn a berth in the section semifinals. 

“This is a huge, huge win for the school,” Woodcreek’s coach Shane Welch acknowledged. “I can’t even remember the last time Woodcreek aquatics beat Jesuit, but I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of boys.”

Despite trailing 2-0 early, the Timberwolves stormed back with three goals in the first period from junior Skyler Gregg, who is better known for his crisp passing than goal scoring. But Jesuit answered with two more goals before sophomore Curtis Ostrander knotted the game up at 4-4 at the end of one period with one of his two goals on the day.

In the second, Woodcreek gained a two-goal lead and held that advantage into the fourth period. But once again, Jesuit responded. 

The Marauders tied the game, 11-11, with just over three minutes left in regulation as they found the net twice in less than a minute. 

“No matter what happened in this game, we knew we had to play through it and get the win for (Ryan),” Scholar acknowledged. “The last couple of days have been exhausting. Some of us haven’t had an appetite, some of us haven’t been able to sleep, but we fought through it.”

Following a save from goalkeeper Scott Hawkins, the Timberwolves pushed the ball to Scholar, who worked into position at five meters out. Once he got the ball, he turned and fired a rocket to the cage. 

Nothing but net. 

Woodcreek took the lead and never looked back. 

“That was a transition play and I thought about calling a timeout to set up a play,” Welch explained. “But I saw that Noah got the ball quickly, so I held off. I thought, ‘I’ve got a few timeouts, so I can wait a few more minutes. Let’s see what he can do.’”

Gregg added his team’s final goal with a pretty lob over the goalkeeper to give his team a comfortable two-goal lead with 1:36 left in regulation. Jesuit could not find an equalizer and dropped the contest, 13-11. 

“That was an impressive display from Woodcreek — they played with a lot of heart,” Jesuit’s coach Zac Koerner admitted. “I thought their goalie, Scotty Hawkins, played amazing and they played with great energy on offense and carried it throughout the game.

“They kept answering every time we closed the gap. They played great.”

With the win, the Timberwolves advance to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals, where they face top-seeded Davis, today at Johansen High School in Modesto. 

You can be sure the team will be hungry for another win as they look to keep their momentum going and keep winning for their teammate back home.

“Ryan is the type of guy who is the friendliest face on the pool deck,” Woodcreek’s coach Shane Welch added. “Even the freshmen or any brand new kids knew him and loved him. So everyone lost one of their friends when he was hospitalized. He’s recovering slowly, but it’s still a waiting game to see where the situation goes.

“These guys are playing their hearts out for him. It’s special to see that.”