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After Selma and Kingsburg finished in the top two spots of the Central Sequoia League girls water polo standings, the Bears and Vikings were well represented on the first and second teams along with local players earning the top awards.

Claire Machado of Selma and Sofia Righetti of Kingsburg were named the league’s Most Valuable Players for 2019. Both girls also earned All-CSL First Team honors.

“Claire was the best player on the best team. She earned that award,” Bears coach Harold Wood said via email. “She worked hard all four years and was an amazing leader. Sofia is an amazing player and it was the right call for them to be co-MVP.”

Kingsburg coach Tris Abell said it was no surprise that Machado and Righetti were the co-MVPs of the CSL.

“Sofie was without a doubt one of the strongest players in league,” Abell said via email. “Harold and I, along with other coaches, agreed that our two girls were without a doubt the best to be named MVP. Each with their own offensive and defensive strengths.”

It was the second consecutive year that a Bear has won the MVP award and Righetti was a year removed from earning the league’s 2018 Offensive Player of the Year honor. Former Bears’ goalie Bailey Baker won the award last year. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own players.

In one of the league’s other top honors, Abi Baker was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. The sophomore was also recognized on the First Team. Wood said Baker was the points leader in the league, meaning a player would earn one point each for a goal and an assist.

“Abi had a great year, both offensively and defensively,” Wood said. “She’s unbelievably athletic. She was No. 2 on our team in goals behind Claire and No. 1 in assists. She was the points leader for our league. She’s only a sophomore, so the next two years should be fun to watch.”

Wood was named the league’s Coach of the Year after leading the Bears to a second consecutive CSL title with an 8-0 record. Selma finished the 2019 campaign at 18-10 overall after a quarterfinal 6-1 loss to Paso Robles in the CIF Central Section Division II playoffs.

It was the second year in a row that Wood received the yearly honor.

“The girls get all of the credit,” Wood said. “Sure, I’m the one that teaches them the game, but without their drive and determination, we wouldn’t be at the level we are now.”

Machado, Baker, Tori Valdez and goalie Arriella Alvarez all represented Selma on the First Team while Julianna Colado was named to the Second Team. Wood said if the league had an all-star team, Colado would be on the squad if he was the coach.

Wood described Valdez as “an amazing defender” and said Alvarez had a tremendous first year taking over as goalie after losing last year’s MVP Bailey Baker.

“I knew she had a great arm, but it was her determination and work ethic that set her apart,” Wood said about Alvarez. “She worked hard all summer to learn the position, even getting private lessons from the Fresno State goalie.”

Righetti and Hanson were the only Vikings on the First Team while Mirjana Quattrin and Megan Buendia were recognized on the Second Team.

“Shay was another really strong player on both ends of the field,” Abell said. “She was the second leading scorer. Megan and Mirjana also had very strong offensive season and I was very proud of their growth this year. I will miss Megan next as she was a senior.”

Selma had a total of five selections and a league-high four first teamers. The Bears total selections was tied for the most with Exeter. Kingsburg tied for the second most selections with Hanford West at four. The Huskies had the most Second Team selections at three.

Mikayla Vierra (Kingsburg), Audrena Butts (Kingsburg) and Brooke Machado (Selma) were recognized by the league as honorable mention.

“Mikayla had a wonderful season in goal and we could not have had the season record we did without her,” Abell said. “She is a strong goalie with lots of potential. Audrena was a very hard worker and has so much room for growth. I’m beyond excited to see she accomplishes next year.”

Abell finished her first year as head coach of the program with a 20-6 overall record including a 6-2 mark in league. The Vikings season ended with a 7-5 loss in the Central Section Division II quarterfinals.

When asked about Brooke Machado, Wood said she has the “ability to be a first team player.”

“Brooke had a tougher year,” Wood said. “Last year, nobody knew her, but this year they were prepared for her. She is our ‘hole’ player, so she gets a lot of attention. She’s only a sophomore so she’s still learning that the position requires both strength and finesse. Her play towards the end of the year showed that she’s learning that.”

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The reporter can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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