It was the stage Cassidy Crouch desired, under the plan she was made for.
First, the stage: Top-seeded Clovis, led by senior goaltender Crouch, against No. 2 Clovis West and UC Santa Barbara-bound star Sarah Snyder for the Central Section Division I girls water polo title.
And the plan: Use a double-team to neutralize Snyder and rely on Crouch to stop any uncontested shots.
The plan worked nearly flawlessly as Clovis shut out Clovis West through the first half and limited Snyder, a two-time Tri-River Athletic Conference MVP and former U.S. Women’s Cadet team member, to one goal while Crouch came up with 13 saves in the Cougars’ 5-3 victory.
Crouch is The Bee’s Player of the Year.
“We wanted to force them to shoot from the outside because when you have a strong goalie like Cassidy, who is so good at stopping shots from the outside, it works really well,” Clovis coach Noah Minton said. “She’s fearless. Some players get nervous, which is natural in high stakes games, but she’s always risen to the challenge in those big games.”
She’s fearless. Some players get nervous, which is natural in high stakes games, but she’s always risen to the challenge in those big games.
Clovis girls water polo coach Noah Minton on goalkeeper Cassidy Crouch, who made 13 saves in the Cougars’ 5-3 victory over Clovis West for the Central Section Division I title.
Crouch was named the All-Valley MVP by participating coaches for her performance in the postseason, which included Clovis victories over Porterville (18-5) in the quarterfinals and Clovis North (9-3) in the semis.
She said she was driven to atone for a 5-4 loss to Clovis West in the 2014 D-I final.
The four-year varsity player was the defensive backbone to a Cougars’ team that went 29-5, won titles at the Central Valley Showdown and the St. Francis Invitational, and captured a co-TRAC championship with rival Clovis West, which they beat in three of four meetings.
“We needed to rock this season and win Valley to redeem ourselves from last year,” Crouch said. “That was the only thing on my mind. I wanted to win it not only for myself, but for my teammates and coaches and all the people who have supported me.”
It was Clovis’ second D-I championship with Crouch in the cage after she made 12 saves in a 6-5 victory over Clovis West in 2013. Crouch was primarily a backup that year but saw her playing time increase late in the season based on how well coaches Minton, Evan Baird and Kelsie Harvey felt she handled pressure.
“It’s great to have coaches who believe in you,” said Crouch, a three-time All-Bee selection. “Pressure is a privilege. It means competition. It means something is up to you, and you have to perform. Your adrenaline is up. I love it.”
The 5-foot-10 Crouch – who also plays basketball and badminton, where she was part of a section champion doubles team with Alexis Rodriguez in 2014 – wanted to quit water polo after her first practice in the seventh grade.
276 Number of saves made by Clovis goalkeeper Cassidy Crouch while leading the Cougars to a 29-5 overall record and the Central Section Division I title.
But Crouch’s mom wouldn’t let her without giving it a second chance, and at that second practice, she was switched from a field player to goaltender because of her height and wingspan.
Crouch found she enjoyed playing in the cage and working with goalkeeper coach Harvey, a former Clovis standout who went on to play at Fresno Pacific. Harvey’s tutelage helped Crouch blossom into a UC Davis recruit.
“If I don’t owe all of my success to her, I owe 99.99999 percent of it to her,” said Crouch, the TRAC Goalie of the Year. “She was a great goalie and she taught me her ways. I thank her for that every day.”
Girls Water Polo All-Stars: Outstanding Offensive Performer, Sarah Snyder
- School: Clovis West
- Year: Senior
- She’s qualified because: Was the driving force behind the Golden Eagles’ extending their record run of 19 consecutive trips to the Central Section finals with 112 goals. She also produced 21 assists, 57 steals and 44 ejections drawn for a Clovis West team that went 24-7 and tied for the Tri-River Athletic Conference title. Snyder was a unanimous selection as the TRAC’s Most Valuable Player, winning the award for the second straight season. She signed with UC Santa Barbara in November to continue a water polo career highlighted by a stint with the U.S. Women’s Cadet national team in 2014.
- Among the best: Snyder finished with 335 career goals, third-best in the history of the section’s standard-bearing program. She was also eighth in assists (123), fourth in steals (223) and third in ejections drawn (163). Snyder helped the Golden Eagles win three TRAC and two section D-I titles in her four seasons as a starter, all of which ended in All-Bee honors. She was the Bee’s Player of the Year in 2014. “It’s going to be tough to replace her,” Clovis West coach Scott Torosian said. “She’s helped keep the program at a high level.” Snyder has also been a standout swimmer, helping Clovis West’s 200 and 400 free relay teams set section records last season.
- He said it: “Teams know about her offensive ability, so they focus on that. But what they don’t always realize is we put her on other team’s best player, defensively. It takes a lot of effort on her part to play both ends of the pool. And it’s a testament to how hard she trains to be in good enough shape to do that. Her biggest attribute is wanting to score the ball, but she’s only gotten better as a defensive player as well. She helped us win a lot of games this year by shutting down the other team’s best player.” – Torosian.
Girls Water Polo All-Stars: Coach of the Year, Noah Minton
- School: Clovis
- He’s qualified because: Captured the third Central Section championship of his nine seasons as Cougars’ coach with a 5-3 victory over rival Clovis West in the Division I final. It capped a season where Minton guided Clovis to a 29-5 record, titles at the Central Valley Showdown and St. Francis Invitational tournaments and a share of the Tri-River Athletic Conference crown with Clovis West.
- Sharing the credit: Minton said outgoing assistant Kelsie Harvey, a former star goalkeeper for Clovis, played a crucial role in the Cougars’ title run. In addition to her work with the goalies, where she helped Cassidy Crouch blossom into a college recruit, Harvey aided Minton in game-planning and strategy and provided a role model to the players. “The girls respect her so much,” Minton said. “She’s a fantastic coach.” Harvey got married in December and is relocating to San Diego.
- He said it: “It was a good group of girls who had great leadership (in co-captains Maddie Alexander, Vivian Talmage and Crouch.) It makes a big difference when you have great leadership with great athletes. That was the biggest factor in helping us be successful.” – Noah Minton
The Fresno Bee Girls Water Polo All-Stars
- Maddie Alexander, senior, Clovis
- McKenzie Beardsley, senior, Monache
- Ally Clague, junior, Clovis West
- Adie Collard, junior, Clovis
- Anne Deffebach, senior, Bullard
- Jessica Diaz, junior, Madera
- Abbey Ervin, senior, Buchanan
- Francesca Favagrossa, junior, Memorial
- Terry Feigel, senior, Sanger
- Savannah Fitzgerald, junior, Clovis North
- Bianca Gonzalez, junior, Selma
- Emily Helpio, senior, El Diamante
- Sabrina Lloyd, senior, Sierra Pacific
- Maddie Loggins, junior, Clovis West
- Savannah Mangrum, senior, Sanger
- Emily Milton, junior, Reedley
- Brittany Morris, senior, Clovis East
- Aneesha Nagra, senior, Selma
- Allie Negus, junior, Porterville
- Madeline Pace, senior, Golden West
- Georgia Phillips, sophomore, Clovis North
- Darian Roeber, senior, Hanford
- Vivian Talmage, senior, Clovis
- Bri Wessels, senior, Clovis West
- Kailyn Zwaagstra, senior, Golden West