The Garces Rams are 2018 Central Section Division II boys water polo champions.
The Rams, seeded No. 1 in the tournament bracket, beat No. 2 Visalia-El Diamante 19-7 on Saturday at Fresno State. It marks back-to-back Central Section championships for the Rams, who now advance to the NorCal Division II playoffs. It’s also the third time in four years the Rams have been crowned section champs.
“It doesn’t ever get old,” said head coach Jason Gall, who’s in his second year in charge of the program. “We talked about doing this since the end of last season. It was a goal from a year ago. We were fortunate enough to put it all together.”
Garces (21-6) rolled to the title on Saturday. The team led 4-3 after the first quarter and built its lead to 9-4 at halftime. Garces led 14-5 going into the fourth quarter.
Gall said the Rams had a balanced attack this season and that, despite losing elite goal scorers Grayden Reynolds and Lee Begin from last year’s title team, still has plenty of firepower on their roster.
That was on display Saturday, with Eric Klang scoring seven goals while George Rice and Joe Starr had four apiece. Rory Begin finished with three while Evan Berry added another.
“A lot of us have stepped up this year, and our goal scoring is a lot more even than last year,” Klang said. “If other teams want to stop two or three of us, we have two or three other guys that can do the job.”
The Rams strength is team speed in the pool, Gall said, and they created that Saturday by getting defensive stops which turned into scoring opportunities the other way.
The Rams got four saves from goalie Ostin Woodfin and another seven from Nathan James, who entered in the second half.
“We were faster, we are going to counter teams. We want to keep them off the scoreboard all together,” Starr said. “We were going to score as the game goes on. But we didn’t want to give them any confidence.”
Last year Garces advanced to the NorCal Division II semifinals as a No. 4 seed. The Rams beat No. 5 San Rafael-Marin Academy, 11-8, in the opening round before losing to No. 1 Mountain View-Saint Francis, 16-11, in the semis.
Starr said last year’s experience taught Garces not to underestimate anyone in its path.
“That’s been an emphasis for us this whole playoff run. We want to keep that going in NorCal,” he said.
Gall said due to wildfires in Northern California, other section championships in the region have been postponed to early this week. Therefore, Gall said, the start of the NorCal playoffs have been postponed as well and are now scheduled to get underway Thursday.
Garces 19, Visalia-El Diamante 7
At Fresno State University
El Diamante 3 1 1 2 — 7
Garces 4 5 5 5 — 19
GOALS: Klang 7, Rice 4, Starr 4, Begin 3, Berry 1.
SAVES: Woodfin 4, James 7.