Imhoff’s goal in overtime lifts AHS boys

The Atascadero Greyhounds water polo teams hosted a pair of big games on Wednesday, Oct. 2, as the boys and girls each hosted the Morro Bay Pirates with the girls playing first and then the boys. Both games were action-packed and ended in Greyhound victories, the girls winning 9-4 and the boys winning 10-9 in overtime. The boys game wound up being one of the best games, of any sport, in the county this year. 

The boys game needed an additional two periods to be decided and came down to a last-second goal by the Greyhounds Jaedyn Imhoff and a huge save from goalie
Noah Meade. 

“It was a tight game,” Imhoff said following the game. “We weren’t playing our best but with our last timeout I really didn’t want to go to another set of overtime and I just knew I had to put it in for my team — for my family.”

Imhoff called the team his family and the rest of the boys and coach Jon Conrad echoed his sentiment. 

“We yelled family loud down there [west end of the pool] right before the last overtime quarter and we do a quiet family just for ourselves after every game,” Meade said. “And it’s a big thing for us.”

The game was as close as it could be from start to finish with the biggest lead for either team being only two goals, which came right at the beginning as the Pirates jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. 

Owen Sullivan got the Hounds on the board first and Imhoff scored the second with 45 seconds to go in the first quarter bringing the score to 3-2 after seven minutes of play. 

Most of the second quarter was a defensive matchup with both teams struggling to find any open space to get off good shots but Atascadero’s Alex Hall broke the drought 4 minutes in, tying the game at 3. Right after the Hounds tied it, the Pirates scored again to retake the lead, which was a trend in the game. Both teams scored in their opening possessions coming out of halftime 

Morro Bay grabbed another two-goal lead in the third quarter when Atascadero was forced to foul on a fastbreak, giving the Pirates a 2-meter which they buried in the bottom left corner to go up 7-5. 

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Again, the Hounds answered back as Sullivan scored his second goal of the game to end the third quarter trailing 7-6. 

The Hounds outscored the Pirates 2-1 in the fourth quarter to force overtime — two 3-minute halves. After a few wild possessions, Sullivan put his third goal of the game in the back of the net with :20 to go in the first half of OT and sent the crowd and especially the junior varsity warming up poolside into a frenzy that what cut short as the Pirates responded with a buzzer-beater to tie it again going into the second half of overtime. 

The final three minutes were tense as neither team wanted to make a mistake. Conrad called a timeout before the Hounds final possession and called a play for Imhoff who did the rest, clanging his shot off the top bar of the cage and in with only :08 to go. 

The Pirates had one last shot but Meade blocked it and the clock ticked down to zero’s with the ball hoisted high above his head following his save.

“The boys, I think they are really seeing how they can rely on each other and they are gelling as a team right now,” Conrad said. “I knew they were nervous going into that game and I just reminded them that they know how to play polo. I reminded them that they are a family and they played like it. Even when the game wasn’t going our way, they didn’t let it phase them. Jaedyn Imhoff was not having a good game offensively in the beginning, you know he didn’t really want to take the shots but I looked at him and said ‘You’re the guy. You’re going to take this shot for us because we know you can do it,’ and what I love for him is that it went in — of course — but I think it’s even more huge for him because he needs to remember to always believe in himself.”

The win over the Pirates brings the Hounds even with Morro Bay in the season series having lost the first game 3-1 back on Aug. 24. 

Atascadero senior Evelyn Rinkenberger tries to block a shot attempt on defense during the Hounds 9-4 win Wednesday over the Morro Bay Pirates.

The girls game, while still good, seemed uninteresting in comparison to the fireworks that followed it but the girls were also motivated to beat a Pirates team that beat them soundly a year ago and did so in overwhelming fashion scoring five goals in the opening frame. 

It was the seniors that led the way on Wednesday and it seemed that Mina Nogi and Evelyn Rinkenberger must have made a pre-match wager to see who could score the most as they took turns the entire game. The two combined for eight of the team’s nine goals and alternated back and forth for the first six on the way to the 9-4 victory. 

“It feels so good,” Nogi said after the game. “Especially because we played against them last year and lost by a lot and then just knowing that we have come back stronger and better feels so good.”

The girls team is set up nicely with just six games to go in the season. While the Hounds are in fourth place in the Mountain League, two of the three teams ahead of them will go into the Division 1 playoffs and the other is the Bearcats who are one of the top two or three teams in Division 2 and a favorite to make a deep run come November. With the win over Morro Bay, the Hounds are looking at the possibility of a home playoff game that technically couldn’t be played at Atascadero because their pool does not fit the regulations and if they keep beating the teams they need to beat they might even get to host for a few rounds. 

“It is an important win for us, A, because it’s a league game, B, they are in the same CIF Division 2 with us so we need to keep beating the teams that are below us,” girls head coach Rob Rucker said following the game. “I think we’re in a pretty good position right now in Division 2 to where we should be able to get a home CIF game and possibly even a second home game if we can take care it.”