SFL sets pace in section water polo

Granite Bay, Oakmont to face off in semifinal
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Sierra Foothill League dominance of the pool continues this week at the Roseville Aquatic Center.

But for a narrow loss by its third-place team, Woodcreek, to section powerhouse Rio Americano in Saturday’s second round, the league would be hosting a private party Thursday night. Instead, the Raiders will join three SFL teams (Granite Bay, Del Oro and the surprising Oakmont Vikings) in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals.

“I think that the SFL is the toughest league in DI or DII in this section,” said Granite Bay coach John MacLeane.

MacLeane’s Grizzlies, the tournament favorites, will face upstart Oakmont in Thursday’s first semfinal. The Vikings surprised highly regarded El Camino in the first round and then took care of business after a good second-round draw.

Shane Welch had five goals and five assists as Oakmont took care of Benicia 19-8 Saturday to set up their match with the Grizzlies. Taylor Nordell also scored five for the Vikings and Drew Wixon had four tallies and four assists.

“We know that we face an extremely difficult challenge with Granite Bay,” said Oakmont coach Mark Plank. “Granite Bay has an excellent coach and very dedicated and committed athletes that play water polo year round. They crushed us earlier this season so we are hopeful to prove that we are a better team now and give them a better game.”

Welch echoes his coach’s feelings on a rematch with Granite Bay.

“We definitely want to see them,” Welch said after Friday’s El Camino win. “I would really like to get a rematch with Granite Bay so we can show them that we are better than we were the first time.”

MacLeane has seen the improvement in the Vikings, but likes where his team is as well after a 14-7 win over Oak Ridge Saturday.

“I thought that we played very well on Saturday and that Oak Ridge got better and better as the game went progressed,” MacLeane said. We have to play Oakmont Thursday and they have gotten really tough in the playoffs. I think they are coming together as a team at the right time.”

Both teams reached the final four a year ago, and while the Grizzlies are a perennial powerhouse, this is new territory for Oakmont.

“We are very excited about returning to the final four for the second straight season,” Plank said. “I am hopeful that parents in our community will begin to notice that we have a solid water polo program at Oakmont and begin to encourage their sons to come out for water polo when they attend Oakmont. Water Polo is a unique sport where all of our boys learn the game for the first time as they enter high school verses traditional sports where the kids have been playing since they were six or seven years old.”

The second semifinal will feature Rio Americano against Del Oro. Rio beat Woodcreek 11-9 Saturday and Del Oro took a 9-8 decision against Ponderosa.



Section water polo playoff schedule

Thursday at the Roseville Aquatic Center

4 p.m. – girls semifinal Granite Bay vs. Rocklin

5:15 p.m. – girls semifinal Rio Americano vs. Ponderosa

6:30 p.m. – boys semifinal Oakmont vs. Granite Bay

7:45 p.m. – boys semifinal Del Oro vs. Rio Americano