LODI — Senior Lauren Owens saw it before Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal game even started — the Davis High girls water polo team was locked in.
Using that laser-like focus, a balanced offensive attack and a suffocating defense, the Blue Devils scored the first 14 goals of the contest to defeat Rocklin, 16-1, at Tokay High. With the win, DHS advanced to the section championship game for the 14th straight season.
A victory over, you guessed it, rival St. Francis in Saturday’s title match (set for 2 p.m. at Roseville Aquatics Center) would give the Devils their fifth consecutive crown.
“Our warm-up was really long, we had the whole pool to ourselves and we just got really pumped up as a team,” said Owens, who was one of three Davis players to post a hat trick. “Before the game, we were listening to songs together, just getting each other psyched up.”
Juniors Mara Dominguez and Colby Stapleton joined Owens with three-goal performances and both were key as the locals took control early.
Dominguez scored two of her goals in the Blue Devils’ 4-0 first period, while it was Stapleton’s presence that led to a key moment in the game.
After DHS forced Aelish Guinn, a star senior for the Thunder, into an early ejection, Stapleton’s heads-up play — grabbing a steal, then dropping in front of Guinn — drew another ejection, sending the Rocklin standout to the bench for good before the first quarter was over.
“Their team was all about Aelish, so our goal was for Colby to negate that … and get scoring from (everyone else),” said Devil coach Doug Wright. “We knew we had them beat at the other five positions and in the cage so it was a matter of seeing how that (Stapleton/Guinn) matchup went, and Colby was awesome. She was just her typical dominant self. Every time she goes against a better player she is able to dial it up to another level.
“It wasn’t something we talked about, getting (Guinn) in foul trouble,” Wright added, “but that was impressive and at that point, for all intents and purposes, the game was over.”
With the other team’s leading scorer on the bench, Davis’ defense was impenetrable through the final whistle. The locals accumulated nine steals and their defense was just as good when they were using exclusively reserves for the final quarter and a half.
Blue Devils like Haley Blackwell, Monica Ferrera, Lara Vanderbilt and Emme Van Vorhis all played well off the bench.
In addition, DHS freshman goalie Katrina Strum relieved starter Mattie Lilliedoll (three saves) at halftime and blocked six Rocklin shots, while sophomore Megan Fleming put the finishing touches on the victory, scoring the Devils’ final goal.
“Our bench mob, when they went in, were awesome,” Wright said.
With its stifling defense allowing just a single goal, Davis’ scoring was an added bonus and a total team effort. Senior Heather Johnson tallied twice and single goals came from Kinsey Van Deynze, Alyssa Alvarez, Van Vorhis and Kendal Doten.
“The whole time it was a team collaboration, where is the open player and how can I help my teammate get the shot. And that’s how the score got so lopsided,” Owens said. “Everyone was hitting shots left and right. We attacked their defense well, we moved the ball quickly and were able to get it to the center.”
Notes: St. Francis sophomore Julie Zanobini of Davis scored the game winner at the 2:41 mark of the second overtime, advancing the Troubadours into the section finals for the 10th consecutive season — each time facing the Blue Devils. St. Francis trailed by four goals early before rallying to defeat Granite Bay, 5-4, in sudden death Wednesday at Tokay.
—Reach Chris Saur at email@example.com or 530-747-8049.