It took Garces boys water polo coach Jason Gall a little time to process exactly how long the Rams would be playing.
Up until this season, once the Central Section playoffs were complete, that was it.
Now, with the inaugural CIF State regional championships, the when, where, why, who and how was all foreign.
But Gall and his players educated themselves quickly and are now headed to Sacramento after Garces defeated San Rafael-Marin Academy 11-8 in the CIF Northern California Division II quarterfinals at home on Tuesday.
“Our focus was the D-II Valley championship,” Gall said. “We didn’t really know much about this tournament. We didn’t know how to qualify. Who was going to qualify. How many teams they were taking or what the format was. So it wasn’t really something we put much thought into throughout the year.”
The Rams defeated Porterville-Monache for the D-II title last Thursday, the second section title for Garces in the last three years.
Garces will face No. 1 Mountain View-St. Francis in the D-II NorCal semifinals on Saturday at 8 a.m. at Rio Americano High School in east Sacramento.
“I am just really excited,” Garces junior driver Eric Klang said. “We have been working really hard this season and I am really glad we got to make it to Sacramento for semifinals.”
Klang, along with Evan Berry and Grayden Reynolds, led Garces with three goal each.
After a 4-4 tie at halftime, Garces (27-6) outscored the Wildcats (20-6) 3-1 in the third.
But Marin scored three goals in the first three minutes in the fourth and took an 8-7 lead.
“In the first three quarters we weren’t really clicking,” Reynolds said.
Then Garces responded with a 4-0 run to end the match, including a tying goal by Oliver Oxley and senior Lee Begin took an assist from Berry for the go-ahead score from two-meters out.
“That was huge,” Begin said. “This is the first year of state, so we came into the season hoping to win Valley. Then we realized the season wasn’t over. We had to prepare. We slept a little in the first half, we came back strong in the second and we were able to win and now we are headed to the semifinals. It’s great.”
Ostin Woodlin had six saves for Garces as Begin led the Rams with three assists and Berry added two.