Makenzie Huskey’s improvisation and pristine touch delivered a Central Section girls water polo title for El Diamante High on Saturday.
The lob – generally not a money pitch for the senior – worked to perfection four times among her seven goals as the top-seeded Miners dominated West Yosemite League rival Redwood 10-4 for the Division II championship at the El Diamante pool.
Huskey scored on two lobs and a penalty shot for a 3-0 El Diamante lead in the first quarter, and the Miners wouldn’t be threatened while closing a 29-3 season with their fourth section title and first since 2009, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
“I’m usually scared to shoot lobs, but I was just feeling it today,” said Huskey, a three-year starter who finished with 89 goals this season. “I wanted to be confident in this game – the whole team did.”
The lobs in no way were ordered by El Diamante coach Robert Young.
“That wasn’t the game plan,” he said, drenched after a pool dunking by the team. “In fact, we sort of discourage it because it’s not the strongest shot. The game plan was to utilize the hole set, work the ball in front of the cage, and take a powerful shot.”
Makenzie was seeing something we weren’t and took advantage of it. One time, as her arm was coming back, I’m saying, ‘No, no, no,’ Then she lets it go, it lands in back of the cage, she turns around and says, ‘It was open.’ And I said, ‘All right, do it.’
El Diamante girls water polo coach Robert Young
Third-seeded Redwood (21-9), meanwhile, had two major problems – misfortune and El Diamante goalkeeper Lauren Hooyer.
Hooyer, a junior, was sensational with 12 blocks. And when she wasn’t rejecting, the posts were as the Rangers clanked eight shots off them.
That spelled doom for Redwood, which trailed 5-1 at halftime and 7-3 after three quarters.
El Diamante, which tied Hanford for the WYL title with a 10-2 record, went 3-1 against Redwood, losing only 9-8 to the Rangers in triple overtime in September.
The Rangers, denied a third section crown, received seven saves from sophomore goalie Katie Nelson and two goals from McKenzie Darnell. Freshman Skylar Ford arrived with 64 goals but scored only once, no thanks to Hooyer and those ornery posts.
Division II boys – Steven Chapman scored eight goals to help top-seeded Porterville beat No. 2 Redwood 15-3 and avenge a loss to the Rangers in last year’s final.
Chapman scored five consecutive goals spanning the end of the first and second quarters as the Panthers took a 7-1 lead at halftime. In three playoff games, Chapman scored 21 goals.
Colby Silva and Grant Snyder had two goals apiece, and Caleb Brumley also scored for Porterville (30-1).
Cade Batchman scored two goals, and Drew Parsley had the other for Redwood (17-10).
Division III girls – No. 1 Mt. Whitney completed a three-game season sweep of No. 2 Reedley, winning 8-4 to secure the program’s second title (2011).