With the accolade that is the Sac-Joaquin Section title once more on the line, the Davis High boys and girls water polo teams are equally keen on reeling it in.
And the Blue Devil squads’ determination may cast some doubt on their opponents’ chances; as the boys are in pursuit of their 15th SJS championship victory under the guidance of Davis mentor Tracy Stapleton, while the girls have claimed the title 10 times since it was introduced to the section in 1996.
The contest, which gets underway this weekend and will conclude a week later, presents both of the juggernaut teams an opportunity to defend the title that was theirs in 2012.
Though for the Blue Devil girls, it has been a while since the title wasn’t in their possession. DHS coach Doug Wright has led his girls to four consecutive SJS championships.
This wouldn’t be the year to bet against the Blue Devils (22-6 overall this season), given that all of the standouts from last year’s roster are on deck this year.
The local girls already have exhibited their will to succeed in the postseason; they’re fresh off finishing fifth at the NorCal tournament, where they took games from some of the region’s best.
“We have as good a team, or better, than we had last year,” Wright said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves, though. My expectation is that we take the tournament game by game and reach that championship match, and go from there.”
DHS has been a presence in all but three of the section’s finals since 1996. Wright was willing to entertain predictions as to who may await his squad there this year: St. Mary’s or St. Francis of Mountain View.
The latter team gave Blue Devils their only loss, 10-7, of the recent NorCal tournament.
And the boys have their own rivals to overcome. Either Jesuit or DHS (or both) have been in the SJS boys water polo championship game since 1994.
The Marauders edged out the Blue Devils for two consecutive titles — in 2010 and 2011 — before the locals snapped the runner-up streak for the pennant last year.
The DHS boys crew retained six of the seven Davis starters from 2012. Boasting eight seniors, the veterans need only remember the lessons of the season (which ended with them standing at 21-6 overall).
“We need to do the things that we’ve been working on all season,” Stapleton said. “It starts with defense. We need to be active, to move more, to anticipate what our opponent is trying to do next.”
As far as offense is concerned, the Blue Devil mentor trusts in his strong pack of centers: Garrett Fisk, Graham Fullerton and Conrad McCarthy. This senior trio will especially come in handy in the tournament’s later matches.
“We have every intention of getting ourselves into that championship game,” Stapleton said. “We’ve played all the section’s strong teams, and beat all of them; there’s no reason to go in questioning whether or not we can win.
“It’s just going to come down to our execution. Our athletes know what to do, but they’ve got to want it enough to really put out the effort in this tournament.”
Play begins with a match at Johansen High for both the girls and the boys, against Lincoln on Friday and Rodriguez on Saturday, respectively.
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett