SELMA - A fourth quarter rally and three overtime goals led the Selma girls water polo team to a 9-7 overtime victory over Kingsburg to claim the 2018 Central Sequoia League championship on Oct. 25.
It’s the program’s first league title since 2015 and for two of the team’s seniors - Audrie Naranjo and Bailey Baker - it was a day to remember as their final regular season home game.
“It feels so good,” Naranjo said about winning the league title. “This is our league championship, that 2018 [sign] is going on that fence [on the north side of the pool]. It feels amazing.”
“It feels good,” Baker said about the win. “We worked really hard for this and during practice we were just trying our best to go over our plays, make sure we knew what to do. I think playing against Kingsburg again and winning, I think it just shows that our practices, they really paid off and how hard we work, it does actually affect our game.”
Down 6-2 heading into the fourth quarter, Selma’s comeback started with a goal by Claire Machado early in the period. The Bears kept setting up plays that would put Machado in scoring position and the junior took advantage of every situation. She went on to score two more times to cut her team’s deficit to 6-5.
With under two minutes to play, Naranjo’s second score of the afternoon came at the right time, scoring a goal that tied the game at 6-6. Naranjo’s goal would be the score that eventually forced overtime.
“Just put it in the net and go to overtime,” Naranjo said on her game-tying goal. “I rather take that then a loss.”
Naranjo said she was speechless when asked about the fourth quarter rally, but added that Machado put the team in position to tie the game.
“I was so proud of Claire,” Naranjo said. “For putting that [ball] in and she was one of our leaders. She had to do what she had to do and she did it.”
Machado had a total of four goals against the Vikings, which put her season total at a team-high 72. Naranjo is behind her at 60 goals for the season.
Through three quarters, Kingsburg dominated the game with a 6-2 lead. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Vikings lost three starters due to kickouts and were rolled for the rest of the game. Kingsburg head coach Emily Dewey said those ejections made an impact in the game.
“Going into playoffs, we’ll definitely be looking at how can we be smarter about what we do to not get those kickouts,” Dewey said. “I truly believe that was a really good game and Selma knew how to get us kicked out. They’re really good on their skills on that. That’s a part of the game, but that’ll be something we’ll be practicing in the next couple of weeks."
Selma head coach Harold Wood said the Vikings’ ejections created an opportunity for his team to rally back.
“With their ejections, I knew we had a chance,” Wood said. “They had the three subs in and if we were going to [comeback], it was then.”
Heading into the game Selma (18-9, 7-1 in CSL) and Kingsburg (18-9, 6-2) were tied for first place at 6-1 in the CSL standings.
Last time both of these teams played, it was the Vikings that rallied back for a come-from-behind 8-6 victory on Oct. 9. The Bears were up 6-3 at halftime before being outscored 5-0 by Kingsburg in the second half. At the time, it was the Vikings 14th-straight CSL victory.
Since then, the Kingsburg went 2-2, with both of those losses coming at the end of this season. The Vikings lost 12-9 to Exeter two days prior to the second matchup against Selma.
Both Selma and Kingsburg are slated to compete in the playoffs in different divisions. The Bears will enter the CIF Central Section Division II playoffs as the No. 7 seed and will host No. 10 Reedley High in the first round on Oct. 31.
“Playoffs will be good, they’ll be hard,” Naranjo said. “It’ll be a challenge, but if we play like we should, we should be up there.”
As for the Vikings, the girls will compete in the Division III playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Kingsburg will have a bye in the first round and will host either No. 8 Madera or No. 9 Hoover on Saturday, Nov. 3.