In a tune-up for both girls water polo teams' upcoming CIF playoff matches, Murrieta Valley and Temescal Canyon fought for bragging rights Saturday evening in the Titans pool.
Both teams have very similar records and each has recently won their respective league championship. The Division 3 Nighthawks triumphed, going home with a 6-4 win over the strong Division 5 Titans. Murrieta Valley is now 23-6 while Temescal is 22-6.
Each team learned some valuable lessons that will prove helpful the next two weeks.
Paige Virgil scored first for the Nighthawks Saturday evening, early in the first period followed shortly thereafter by teammate Kayla Fedler, make the score 2-0 after one period.
Two second-period goals were added by Murrieta’s Maddie Sanchez while Titan Taylor Johnson put in one of her own for a score. That would make it 4-1 at halftime.
The Nighthawks scoring would end in the third period with Megan Guerts putting two past Titan goalie Lina Medieros. Sammi Murphy, a consistent scorer this season for the Titans, placed one in the net in that period making it a 6-2 game at the end of three.
The fourth period was all Temescal’s but the two goals, one by Dannielle Wenzel and the second—with 43 ticks left on the clock—by Ashtynn Nelson, weren’t quite enough.
One other similarity showed Saturday as Medieros and Nighthawk goalie Abbie Goveia would finish with 12 saves apiece.
Following Saturday’s match, Titan head coach Damian Andrews talked about the timing of this contest.
"I thought it was an important game to play just to get us into the mindset of playing a game of that tempo, that physical nature right before the playoffs because that's what the playoffs are going to be about," Andrews said.
“If we're fortunate enough to make it into the semi-finals and maybe even finals again, we're going to have to be able to play the game just like that where it's going to be physical.
“It's going to come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes. I thought Murrieta capitalized on our mistakes tonight and I don't think that we did a good job of capitalizing on theirs."
Murrieta Valley graduated six seniors from the 2010-2011 campaign which saw the Nighthawks win a CIF championship. The Nighthawks did use some of their underclassmen last season so this year's success is not a fluke.
Returning sophomores, Virgil, Sanchez and Goveia were starters in the pool as freshmen and have certainly aided in their team's success this season as seasoned sophomores.
Nighthawk head coach Bryan Lynton told Patch about last season’s graduating seniors and the youth of this year’s team.
“We lost some really key players. We have one senior this year, Megan Guerts. She’s our captain...," Lynton said.
"We had big shoes to fill.”
Lynton’s underclassmen have certainly been filling those shoes just fine with Guerts taking the lead. Ranked No. 1 much of the season in CIF-Southern Section Division 3, the Nighthawks just finished regular-season play, going 8-0 in league leading into this week’s CIF playoff run.
Southwestern League foe Vista Murrieta is ranked fourth in that same poll. The Lady Nighthawks were victorious over the Lady Broncos last Thursday, 15-3, to claim their fifth straight league title. Vista moves on to the CIF playoffs and is currently 19-10 overall, finishing 6-2 in league with both losses at the hands of Murrieta Valley.
The Southwestern League carousel concluded Thursday with Murrieta Valley and Vista Murrieta competing for the title. Chaparral won in overtime over Great Oak for third place.
In the most recent CIF poll (Feb. 6), the Titans were ranked in a tie for second in Division 5.
Following Temescal Canyon's 19-1 win over Sunbelt rival Elsinore last week, the Titans finished 6-0 in league.
Sanchez and Goveia each spoke about the bond their team shares and how that helps them as a team.
“...We’re with each other literally all day long. We’re more like a family," Goveia said.
Sanchez said there are two key things she’s learned from her coach: “Play together like a family” and “little things make big things happen.”
Many members of both squads have played together in club competition. The same goes for both Andrews and Lynton who have coached club ball together.
“We're all good friends with the Temescal girls so it's nice to have some friendly competition right before playoffs,” Goveia said. “They're a competitive team, too, so it will get us better prepared for the big games that are coming up."
One of the Titans’ scorers, Sammi Murphy, shared why she feels her team has a balanced offense/defense.
"I think we're really strong because most of us are coming back together and we've been working really hard as a team," Murphy said. "Our opponents are really good but we've been training so we'll see what happens.”
Virgil said playing a good team like Temescal will keep both teams sharp and will "keep reminding us to keep working hard.”
“The competition is hard out there and we continue to keep growing and getting better,” Virgil said.
Her teammate, Sanchez, was pumped.
“We are all very excited for CIF playoffs!” Sanchez said.
CIF announced the playoff brackets Sunday morning:
On Wednesday, Murrieta Valley hosts the winner of Tuesday’s California (Whittier) versus Atascadero match, Vista Murrieta will host Temple City and Temescal Canyon will play Glendale at home.
To see the brackets and follow the results, visit: http://cifss.org/ throughout the next two weeks leading up to the championship on Saturday, Feb. 25.