Greyhound waterpolo splits first two games at PAC 8 tournament

Crush Bearcats in opener

Arroyo Grande — Head Coach Jon Conrad and the Atascadero boys water polo team loaded up the bus to Arroyo Grande High School on Tuesday to compete in the PAC 7 water polo tournament. In the first game of the tournament, the Greyhounds faced off against their crosstown rival the Paso Robles Bearcats.

Atascadero got off to a slow start in the first period and allowed senior standout Zack Tucker score a quick goal on Dante Donati when a ball ricocheted off of the post while Tucker was unmarked. He quickly poked the ball into the back of the net giving Paso the early 1-0 lead. Conrad called his first timeout after the Hounds came away with another empty position and refocused his team. The Atascadero philosophy was obvious — don’t let Tucker shoot or even touch the ball.

“He is such a threat from anywhere in the pool and he was a factor on every one of their goals except the last one,” Conrad said. “Our game plan was to not let him shoot and he was still able to find those shots.”

Tucker was able to net one more goal in the third quarter, but other than that, most spectators forgot he was even in the pool. Atascadero’s Kaden Russel spent most of the match behind Tucker while other defenders would take turns fronting him, taking away all possible passing lanes. With Tucker receiving a double team, one of the Bearcat players had to be left open, a sacrifice Conrad and the Hounds were willing to make.

“Coach Conrad is an experienced coach who knows right now we have a very young team from the other games that we have played,” Paso Head Coach Duane McRoy said. “So he basically took away our two experienced seniors… we have two juniors that are playing a lot of time. They had some looks but they have an outstanding goalie.”

Atascadero actually used two goalies in their game on Tuesday. Donate Donati got the start for the Hounds and Noah Meade played in the second half.

Defense led to offense for most of the game. Kyler Warren to Spencer Vega was a goal-scoring combination early and often for the Hounds. Warren made several steals while still 20 feet from the net that led to numerous Greyhound power plays of two on one or three on two. Vega scored on one of those fast breaks to tie the game at one and then beat the Bearcat goalie to near post on another fast break giving Atascadero the 2-1 lead, which they would never relinquish.

Atascadero was able to add three more goals before the end of the second period. Ean Marshall leaked out for a fast break and was left all alone. He took his time, sized up the goalie and delivered a strike to the back of the net. The offense was running so well that all five of the Atascadero starters scored at least one goal in the game. Vega finished as the scoring leader with four goals and Marshall finished second with three.

Atascadero won the game 12-4, beating Paso Robles for the third time this season sweeping the season series.

“It feels really good,” Conrad said. “You know Paso is our cross town rival and to play them consistently strong all season. I'm pleased with that. We had two strong wins against them earlier in the year and our concern was that we would back down and just assume a win, but no we had to fight against them all four quarters. Paso doesn't give up. They fought hard against us all four quarters and I don't think the score reflects the intensity of the game.”

Atascadero faces Righetti Tuesday night and are feeling good after a win in their opener.

“Now we still have a chance at first place, we still have a chance against Righetti even though it is an uphill battle with them because they are so strong, but we still have a chance,” Conrad said. “I'm proud to be in the top four, and someday I want to be that number one slot and maybe it's this year.”

The Greyhounds faced the Warriors in their second game on Tuesday and lost 25-6.

Atascadero's next game in the tournament will be Thursday evening at 4:30.

© 2019-Atascadero News

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