Coyotes clinch first CMAC water polo title
The Coyotes, who finished second in the County/Metro Athletic Conference last year, came into this season looking to complete unfinished business. The main hurdle along the way was Sanger, who finished 10-0 in league last season.
This time, the Coyotes handed Sanger its only loss in league. That turned out to be the difference in helping Madera clinch a league title.
“Beating Sanger was our No. 1 goal,” Madera head coach Erik Baymiller said. “After we beat Sanger, we had three games left and we had to just ride them out.”
The Coyotes lost the season’s first matchup against Sanger as they played without some key players. In the second meeting however, the Coyotes got their full team back and pulled out the crucial victory.
In the season finale against Edison, the Coyotes were once again without a key player in junior Lola Gill.
“Today was nerve wracking because my captain, one of our best players, was out with a concussion,” Baymiller said.
Still, the Coyotes jumped out to a 3-0 lead and dominated the rest of the game. The Tigers scored their first goal with 2:36 left in the first quarter, but Madera held a 4-2 lead going into the second quarter.
With 4:18 left in the second quarter, the Coyotes led 8-2.
“We tend to score the first two or three goals and then kind of let off the gas,” Baymiller said. “The fact that we were sitting up 8-2, I was really happy with that.”
With Madera sitting out its starters in the third quarter, Edison finally slowed down the Coyotes. The Tigers only allowed one goal in the third quarter, but still had a hard time penetrating the Coyotes’ defense.
“We got a little flat in the third, but a lot of our subs and JV players were playing, so they got some valuable time,” Baymiller said.
The Coyotes’ quickness and strength showed throughout the match as they stifled the Tigers and forced turnovers.
“We are quick, so we don’t give up the counterattack,” Baymiller said. “We generally cover it before they get a chance to shoot. Our conditioning is a big part of that.”
Baymiller expects Gill to miss the first round of the playoffs before she gets back.
“Going into the playoffs, we are looking forward to getting her back. Adding her makes us even more deadly,” he said. “We have to get through one game without her, then we will get her back.”
In Gills’ absence, Baymiller has been able to give more playing time to other players.
“It’s nice not having her because we are forced to play the girls on the bench, so they get valuable time,” Baymiller said.
Junior Bailey Hansen is one of the players who has stepped up in the absence of Gill, especially against Edison. She led the team with five goals.
“She had a really good game,” Baymiller said. “We were nervous and started taking shots we don’t normally take, but she stepped out of it and scored goals for us.”
Madera honored its two seniors after the win against Edison — Nicole Gibbs and Maddie McNeil.
“It just means a lot to me to play with these girls,” Gibbs said. “They’re like a family to me.”
“I have been playing water polo with these girls for a long time and and I also consider them a family and to leave makes me really sad because I love these girls so much,” McNeil added.
The Coyotes finished the season 20-5 overall, 9-1 in league. As the No. 2 seed, Madera will face No. 15 Sunnyside on Oct. 31 in the first round of the CIF Central Section DII playoffs.