Top-seeded Coyotes advance to quarterfinals
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Damian Bispham gets a shot off on goal during Wednesday’s win over Hanford West. Bispham’s defense helped the Coyotes record an 8-4 Div. III playoff victory.
The top-seeded Madera Coyotes boys water polo team held up their seed by jumping out to an 7-0 lead and cruised to an 8-4 victory over the 16th-seeded Hanford West Huskies in the first round of the Div. III Central Section playoffs.
Damian Bispham and goalie Ben Prim keyed the defensive attack that didn’t let Hanford West score a goal until there was less than three minutes left in the third period in McAlister Pool on Wednesday.
“Defense is where we really thrive,” head coach Ashlee Gibbs said. “We have a monster in the cage (Prim) and nobody knows how to get by him. Our field players are so aware of what’s going on around them so they can help Ben narrow the angles around the goal so they block shots or Ben knocks it down.”
Robert Criado led the Coyotes with four goals. Matthew Carrera added two while Eric McNeil and Michael Perez added goals.
Although leading by four goals in the final minute, Gibbs was still making sure her players were solid on defense to advance to the next round.
“I don’t stop getting nervous until the buzzer sounds,” she said. “I’m so nervous until the end."
With the win, the Coyotes, who finished fourth in the County/Metro Athletic Conference, advanced to the quarterfinals a year after getting bounced in the first round. They played No. 8 Tulare Western on Friday in McAlister Pool.
“It’s a big step for us,” Gibbs said. “Last year, we were out in the first round. I’m so happy they get to see their hard work pay off and all of those awful morning practices. Making it farther than last year is great for us.”
The Coyotes made their presence felt early in the match. Eric McNeil got the rebound off a blocked shot and shot into the far post from the right side for Madera’s first goal 35 seconds into the match.
Madera added a goal two minutes later when they received a five-meter penalty shot. Perez sent a skip shot into the right side for a 2-0 lead.
Logan Carlson had the ball on the right side of the pool and sent a pass to the middle. Criado rose out of the water and touched it into the back of the net for a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Midway through the second period, Madera extended the lead. On a fast break, the ball went from right side from McNeil to Carrera, who skipped a shot inside the near post for a 4-0 lead.
With about a minute left in the first half, Criado got the ball in the middle of the pool. He carried the ball by or through two defenders to the goal and shot over the goalie for a 5-0 halftime lead.
With 4:30 left in the third period, Carrera got a breakaway down the left side of the pool. He shot by the goalie inside the far post for a 6-0 lead.
About a minute-and-a-half later, Madera earned another five-meter penalty shot. Criado gave Madera a 7-0 lead with a goal into the upper right corner.
About 30 seconds later, Hanford West got on the scoreboard with a skip shot into the upper right corner.
However, 24 seconds later, Madera answered. Criado got the ball in front with a man literally on top of him. Criado shot by the goalie for an 8-1 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Hanford West tried to make things interesting by scoring three goals in the quarter. However, the Madera defense made the Huskies work for it.
Hanford West scored the first goal 30 seconds into the fourth. However, it took two minutes before they could add another goal, and three minutes before they scored their final goal, which came on a turnover in front of Prim in goal.
Prim made two blocks in the final minute to keep the lead at four and secure the victory.