VISALIA — After failing to register a league win last season, and with only one this season, Hanford High understands they’re still rebuilding the program.
The latest example of the boys water polo team’s rebuild came on Wednesday night at El Diamante High School. The team kept it close and trailed 4-2 after the first quarter before stalling and giving way to a 15-6 Miners win.
Still, Hanford coach Anthony Souza took plenty of positives away from his team’s performance.
“We had a lot of good things happen for us tonight, it’s just the score didn’t reflect on how well we were actually trying to play,” Souza said. “But my hat’s off [to El Diamante], they outcoached us tonight. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
El Diamante looked like they were going to turn the match into an immediate blowout from the start. Before anyone could blink, it was 3-0 less than four minutes into the first quarter.
Hanford’s Matt Ross got the team back in order with the Bullpups’ first score of the night, 13 seconds after El Diamante’s third goal. Camden Hampshire added a second goal just over three minutes later and made it 3-2.
“We were just kind of spreading out a little bit and then it left the pocket open for me,” Hampshire said. “I just drove in, got the ball, the defender came, I drew the foul and then took the shot and scored.”
The first quarter ended 4-2 and the Bullpups looked to be in great position to steal a game at the Miners’ home. But then the offense stalled and defensively, the team couldn’t get back on defense — something Souza said could possibly be attributed to training in a small pool.
“We got outswam tonight a little bit on counterattacks,” Souza said. “Not necessarily they beat us inside when they were setting up their offense. We just got beat on counterattacks and we weren’t getting back on defense fast enough. “
The Miners countered in the second very well and outscored Hanford 5-0 in the quarter. At halftime, El Diamante led 9-2 and continued its momentum opening up the third quarter with two more goals before Cole Herman put an end to the Miners’ 7-0 run.
“When you take shots like you got to kind of guess where the goalie is going to go and shoot the opposite of him,” Herman said. “It’s kind of like a thinking factor. It’s just a wild guess.”
Leading 11-3 entering the fourth, Hanford was able to get a couple goals late, including a penalty shot by Herman, but ultimately struggled to generate any real offense after the first quarter.
There were a lot of close misses at the net, shots that clanked off the post or turnovers deep in El Diamante’s territory. Hanford averages just under 14 goals a match so the offense definitely had an off night on Wednesday.
“Our record isn’t reflecting on how well we are playing,” Souza said. “Last year we were getting shut out. This year we’re losing by three or four goals and that’s a remarkable jump from what we’ve had.”
And Souza is right, Hanford’s 6-11 record and 1-7 league record is a microcosm of what they’re trying to build. The games have been a lot closer this season and the boys continue to improve each week.
They lost to Redwood — a Division I school — by five goals a week ago. They lost to Lemoore, a Division II school, by six goals in their first meeting and will close the season against them. Hanford is in Division III so they’re taking on some tough competition.
Overall, the team is trending up and will be interesting to watch next season to see if they can get over the hump and start to earn some league wins.
“Coming together this year we have more team chemistry,” Herman said. “We know our players and we know our others players’ strengths and weaknesses and we know where to put them in the pool to make stuff happen.”
Hanford will continue to try and make stuff happen on the road against Hanford West (4-19, 0-8 WYL) on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Hanford defeated the Huskies earlier in the season for its only league win, 19-7.