Women’s Water Polo Storms Through First Round of NorCal Playoffs

By Noah Glosson, Sports Editor

   //Just four days ago, the women’s water polo team earned its 51st straight victory and repeated as North Coast Section (NCS) Open Division Champions. 

   Due to the ravaging Paradise Camp Fire, the NCS title marked the end of a remarkable season for the undefeated Lady Dons in 2018.

   This year, however, the Lady Dons have an opportunity to add more hardware to head coach Misha Buchel’s classroom in the 500 wing: A California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Northern California Championship. 

   On Tuesday, Nov. 19, the Lady Dons made another leap towards their dream from the beginning of the season.

   Shaking off a sluggish start, the one-seed Lady Dons kicked off their first Norcal Playoff game with a 14-2 victory over the eight-seed St. Francis Lancers of Mountain View to advance to the semifinals.

   The team got off to a shaky start with three missed shots to begin the contest. They found themselves struggling on the counterattack with St. Francis earning steals or forcing turnovers. The Lancers drew first blood midway through the first as a frustrated Buchel called timeout.

   Following a pep talk from their coach, the team regained the lead with goals from senior Jewel Roemer and junior Claire Rowell late in the period. 

   Acalanes only led 2-1 by the end of the first quarter, much to Buchel’s dismay.

   During the break, Buchel ripped his team’s performance apart and told the Lady Dons if their poor play continued, their season and historic winning streak, would end. 

   “I also told them we need to get our heads mentally in the game and be more physical,” Buchel said.“ We needed to make better decisions and read what was happening because [St. Francis] was jumping our automatic passes.”

   Motivated by Buchel’s disapproval and criticism, the team went on a tear and never looked back. 

   Roemer won the opening sprint as senior Mary Beth Heffelfinger scored just 25 seconds into the second period. 

   Following the goal, Roemer stripped the ball away from St. Francis and passed ahead to Rowell for another goal.

  Just a minute later, Romer assisted Heffelfinger again for a 5-1 lead. Romer scored again thereafter, making it 6-1. At that point, the Lady Dons had scored on their first four possessions of the period.

   Two possessions later, sophomore Heidi Heffelfinger notched a goal and junior Alana McCartney entered the scorebook with an outside shot from the post. 

   Acalanes made it 9-1 at the half as Mary Beth fought for the ball with the St. Francis goalkeeper and scored from three meters out.

   “We didn’t have the intensity in the first and in the second came out with more of the power and strength that we usually do,” junior goalkeeper Ava Donleavy said.

   In the third period, McCartney scored her second goal from the lower left post. 

   As both defenses remained solid throughout the quarter, junior Caroline Schirmer scored with 53 ticks left as Acalanes led 11-2.

   After a steal early in the fourth, McCartney fired a skip shot that bounced off the goalpost and into the cage, giving Acalanes a 12-2 lead. 

   With 3:29 left to play, Mary Beth got off a shot just in time as the ball broke the plane of the goalline. The Lady Dons scored twice as they ultimately won by a score of 14-2. 

   Christmas Carols echoed throughout the Heaston Aquatic Center as the undefeated Lady Dons earned their 52nd consecutive victory.

   “We needed to find the energy to win within ourselves because the atmosphere wasn’t the same as it was on Saturday and we did that,” Buchel said

   Roemer, Mary Beth, and McCartney each notched a hat trick on the night. Heidi and Rowell both scored two with Schirmer netting one of her own.

   Donleavy, however, once again earned Blueprint player of the game for her incredible performance defending the cage. 

   The Lady Dons will host the four-seed Davis High School on Thursday, Nov. 21 in the NorCal semifinals. 

   Acalanes beat Davis twice this year to scores of 5-4 and 13-6.

   Buchel feels confident heading into a matchup against an opponent like Davis given their past experience. 

   “We are familiar with Davis and their strengths and excited to host,” Buchel said. 

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