After breezing to an easy win in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section boys water polo tournament, Davis High met its match in the first period of Tuesday’s quarterfinal.
But once the Blue Devils turned on their defense, Merced didn’t score in the final three quarters and DHS advanced with a 13-3 victory at Tokay High in Lodi.
“After an easy first-round game, it’s like we have to get punched in the mouth before we really want to box,” Devil coach Tracy Stapleton said after his guys led just 4-3 at the beginning of the second quarter on Tuesday. “You just hope that first punch isn’t a knockout blow.”
It certainly wasn’t, as DHS junior Tyler Ujifusa and senior Connor Stapleton got the rest of the team to match their intensity and cut off Merced, the Central California Conference champion.
“Our defense really took charge in the second quarter,” coach Stapleton said. “Overall, Tyler Ujifusa had one of his best games of the season. He really came out ready to play; he and Connor really brought the fire.”
The younger Stapleton led the locals with five goals on the day, while Ujifusa added one. In addition, junior Garrett Fisk posted a hat trick, sophomore Brad Nicholson scored twice and single goals from Zac Anderson and Graham Fullerton, both 11th-graders, rounded out the Blue Devil scoring.
With the victory, DHS earned a rematch with St. Mary’s, one of the top teams in the area but also a squad that the Devils beat, 15-7, last month. Fisk scored eight goals in that contest, but the veteran Davis coach knows playoffs are “a different animal.”
“Hopefully, we are going to get a more consistent effort on Thursday,” Stapleton said. “We are going to need a consistent effort because we are fighting to get into the championship game. You can’t win it if you’re not in it.”
Thursday’s semifinal match is set for 11 a.m. at Tokay.