Clovis News: Sports

El Diamante water polo excited about playoffs since realignment

When playoff division realignment across the section was announced, few coaches were happier with the results than El Diamante's Jon Conrad.

After three straight D-II championships, his girls water polo team was promoted to D-I, where the Miners would get the opportunity to compete against the section's toughest programs.

"We are very excited," Conrad said. We're happy to play against the best. Ever since the summer, we've been mentally preparing for this whole season with these playoffs in mind. We are very focused."

After going 24-4 with one loss against section opposition -- an 8-2 defeat against two-time defending D-I champion Clovis West -- El Diamante was given the third seed behind the top-seeded Golden Eagles and No. 2 Clovis.

The Miners open their playoff run at home Saturday against the winner between No. 11 Sunnyside and No. 6 Porterville, two other programs promoted from D-II.

"We want to see what we can do to turn some heads and maybe do some upsetting," Conrad said.

El Diamante, which won its sixth straight WYL title this season, has been led by three-year varsity player Bailey Wickliffe, who has scored more than 130 goals. The Miners also feature goalie Ashlee Smith (who has made approximately 170 saves) and defensive whiz Sydney Stephensen (approximately 120 steals).

"They are playing like a cohesive team right now," Conrad said. "It all comes down to whether they bring their A-game."

The three-division playoffs begin Wednesday with six boys games and five girls games. Top-seeded boys teams are Clovis (D-I), Clovis North (D-II) and Garces, while Memorial (D-II) and Mt. Whitney (D-III) are the other girls No. 1 seeds.