The stage was set Saturday morning at the Jim Coiner Aquatics Center, and for the seventh straight year, Clovis High and Clovis West were playing for all the marbles – the Central Section Division I girls water polo crown.
The teams were 3-3 against each other since first meeting in the section finals in 2009. Clovis West won the first meeting and again in 2012 and 2014. The Cougars took the crown in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
4number of Central Section D-I championships for the Clovis High girls water polo team over the past seven years.
It’s a rivalry unmatched in the San Joaquin Valley, with nearly 800 fans filling the bleachers to watch the top-seeded Cougars take on the defending champion Golden Eagles.
This time, Clovis came out on top, winning 5-3 to knock off the Golden Eagles for the fourth time this season.
Clovis West is a freaking good team. If I had to lose to anyone, I’d lose to them. I could play them 10 times over and lose to them and it’d still be fun.
Clovis High’s Cassidy Crouch on rivalry with Clovis West
“It feels freaking amazing,” Cougars goalie Cassidy Crouch said.
“We wanted it bad. We wanted it real bad. Hard work pays off. That’s one thing I have to tell you is that hard work pays off.”
The senior goalie, who will play at UC Davis next year, had 13 saves, including key stops that foiled a number of Clovis West fast breaks.
It’s a rivalry that I love. It’s been one that’s been a lot of fun over the last seven years. It’s crazy that it’s been the two of us in this final game.
Clovis West coach Scott Torosian
Twice the Golden Eagles had one-on-one opportunities thwarted by Crouch, who came out about seven yards in front of her goal for both stops.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Crouch added. “My team makes my job pretty easy, to be honest. They give me the shots I need, the shots I want. They do everything for me.”
Clovis West’s three goals are the second-fewest goals scored in a game by the Golden Eagles all season. The Golden Eagles were held to just one goal in a 5-1 loss to Clovis High on Sept. 5.
Cougars coach Noah Minton credited assistant Kelsie Harvey with preparing Crouch and the defense. Harvey was a part of the 2010 squad that won the school’s first girls water polo title and has been on the staff since.
“(Kelsie) is a big inspiration for those girls. She coaches those goalies and that’s why they’re so strong and consistent,” he said.
Vivian Talmage and Jillian Hatch scored 30 seconds apart to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead in the first period. Clovis doubled that advantage as Trystan Vuori found sister McKayla for a goal and Shelby Vidmar added another with 21 seconds left before halftime.
The Golden Eagles came out flying in the second half, as Caitlyn Snyder fired in a goal from 15 yards out. Ally Clague added another Clovis West goal, skipping a shot off the water to make it 4-2 midway through the third period.
You almost see the level of play raise between both teams when they play each other, and even though there is that familiar side to it, it still becomes an all-out battle and it’s just a matter of who can finish. Today (Clovis) got the best of us at finishing and hopefully next year it will be us again and for the eighth straight time we’ll go at it.
Clovis West coach Scott Torosian
Sarah Snyder, a three-time Bee All-Star and reigning Player of the Year, scored Clovis West’s third goal in the fourth period. It came after the back of her swimsuit ripped during the game. Her teammates on the bench quickly handed her a replacement, which she shimmied over the broken one, to stay in the game.
“It's so tough when you don’t win, but it’s always exciting when you do,” Minton said. “That’s the way it goes. That’s the nature of good competition. They worked hard, made adjustments and did a great job.”
No. 4 Golden West 6, No. 2 Hanford 4 in Lemoore – Golden West’s Kailyn Zwaagstra made 19 saves to lead the Trailblazers (20-12) to their first Central Section title in the sport.
It was the first time in four years that Golden West defeated their West Yosemite League rival, having lost to the Bullpups in all eight WYL matchups during that span, including 5-4 and 4-2 this season (Hanford went on to win the WYL).
“We kept heart in everything we’ve been through,” Golden West fifth-year coach Courtney Schuster said. “This was the year to (beat Hanford) and we accomplished a pretty big goal.”
Melanie Henriksen had three goals for the Trailblazers, who took a 3-0 lead in the first period that they never relinquished. It was the Bullpups’ (25-6) fourth straight trip to the section final and second loss in a row after falling 10-5 to Garces last year.
No. 1 Selma 10, No. 2 Sierra Pacific 5 – Selma held off Sierra Pacific in both schools’ first championship appearance. Esmer Naranjo opened the scoring 15 seconds into the match for the Bears (22-7), who also beat the Golden Bears 5-4 in overtime earlier this season. Sabrina Lloyd led Sierra Pacific (18-7) with four goals.
Central Section Division I championship
No. 1 Clovis 5, No. 2 Clovis West 3
Clovis West (24-7) 0 0 2 1 — 3
Clovis (29-5) 2 2 1 0 — 5
- CW: Caitlyn Snyder, Ally Clague, Sarah Snyder.
- C: Jillian Hatch 2, Shelby Vidmar, Vivian Talmage, McKayla Vuori.
- Shots: Clovis West 10, Clovis 14. Saves: Clovis West (Brii Wessels) 7 Clovis (Cassidy Crouch) 13.
Division III championship
No. 1 Selma 10, No. 2 Sierra Pacific 5
- SP: Sabrina Lloyd 4, Tina Faoro.
- S: Bianca Gonzalez 4, Annesha Nagra 3, Esmer Naranjo 2, Selena Perez.
- Saves: Selma (Bibi Chavez 10, Caitlyn Thalman 2), Sierra Pacific (Maggie Lucio 8).
- Records: Selma 22-7, Sierra Pacific 18-7