LODI — It was clear early in Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section boys water polo semifinal match that not much had changed since Davis High and Granite Bay had played earlier this season.
The Blue Devils hit the post on their first shot attempt, but it didn’t take long for DHS’ speed and power to overwhelm the Grizzlies in a 15-5 win.
A couple of late GBHS goals, after the game was already decided, made the matchup seem closer than the Devils’ 17-4 win over the Griz in the regular season.
“They just didn’t have the horsepower to compete with our physicality,” Davis coach Tracy Stapleton said after his team led 4-0 after one period and 12-1 after three quarters. “Our defense was really good, particularly in the first half, and that let us get out on the break (offensively).”
The local offense had it all going, from the inside power of senior Garrett Fisk (four goals), Conrad McCarthy (two) and Graham Fullerton (one) to goals created by the speed of freshman Cameron Wright (three), Bradley Nicholson (two), Valente Dolcini (two) and Tyler Ujifusa (one).
“We just took it like every other game, we just try to go really intense all the time,” Fisk explained. “Counterattacks (were our main weapon); we swam really well (Wednesday).”
Though he did his normal impression of a wall in front of the Blue Devil cage — finishing with 10 blocks and three of DHS’ 12 steals — junior goalie Jeff Stark also was a key part of the Devil offense. With his teammates cutting through the water like speed boats, Stark’s long passes were right on the money, setting up advantageous situations for the local offense.
“This is a well-conditioned team that has a lot of speed and that’s something that is really difficult to stop,” Stapleton said. “If we get going on the break, and can get a deep pass in there, it puts us in a great position.”
With the win, the Blue Devils are in position to defend their section championship, with a familiar face waiting for them in Saturday’s title match (3:30 p.m. at Roseville Aquatics Center).
That familiar face belongs to longtime rival Jesuit, a team DHS already has beaten twice this season (10-6 and 12-11). Though that second matchup was close, Stapleton is confident that the Devils have the upper hand heading into the championship contest.
And he knows this time they won’t have trouble getting motivated:
“This game is always emotional at the beginning, but I expect our players to come out and play hard,” said the veteran mentor. “They know this is the game.
“We have some offensive weapons … that they are going to have to figure out how to stop.”
— Reach Chris Saur at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8049.