Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Lola Gill shoots on goal during a water polo match. Gill led the Coyotes with three goals in a program-building 8-7 win over Sanger.
The Madera Coyotes girls water polo team accomplished two feats no other Coyote water polo team has done in school history.
After, literally, holding on for an 8-7 victory over the Sanger Apaches on Wednesday at the McAlister Aquatics Complex, the Coyotes earned their first-ever victory over the Apaches and set themselves up for the program’s first-ever County/Metro Athletic Conference championship.
“I’m still euphoric,” head coach Erik Baymiller said. “I think about it and my hands start shaking. It’s not just that we won, but it was the craziest game of water polo I have seen in my life.”
Lola Gill and Bailey Hansen each scored three goals and Madeleine McNeil scored two to lead the Coyotes to a 6-1 record in the CMAC, identical to Sanger.
“We were up by three in the first period,” Baymiller said. “My best player gets fouled out. We were playing against league champions who went Div. I finals and lost and Div. II state finals and lost. We put in an inexperienced player and she and the team stepped up. We were making amazing goals. We were having problems with our power play and we made most of them. I told them yesterday, we were ready.”
The Coyotes bounced back from a 12-8 loss to the Apaches in the first round of the CMAC.
“Our main focus was making sure our players didn’t foul out,” Baymiller said. “We came with the intensity they weren’t ready for.”
The Coyotes took the early lead and held onto it until the fourth quarter.
“They tried to take advantage of our inexperienced player and scored a flurry of goals,” Baymiller said. “Luckily, we had an 8-4 lead and they cut it to 8-7 with 1:30 left in the game. I was telling our girls to kill the clock. I wanted our players to defend and kill the clock. They had one more possession and their girl took a quick shot and gave us the ball back with 20 seconds left.”
Emily Lopez-Ibarra was the one with the ball with 20 seconds left in the game and still had it with the final buzzer sounded.
“She had two or three girls on her to try to steal the ball,” Baymiller said. “She saved the game. We burned 20 seconds off in the most stressful way possible.”