Sets Sights on Postseason

ATASCADERO — The Greyhounds hosted senior nights for the girls and boys water polo on consecutive afternoons but could not bring home a victory at the Atascadero High School pool with the girls falling to the Paso Robles Bearcats, 5-3, and boys losing to San Luis Obispo Tigers, 9-7.

It was all tears and smiles before both games on the pool deck Tuesday and Wednesday as both Greyhound water polo teams said goodbye to their seniors but more specifically thanked their coaches and family for the support over the years. The stadium crowd overflowed into the corners of the white brick walls that encase the pool, with the staggered games it gave all of the athletes a chance to show their support for each other and they didn’t miss it as group chants rang out at both games. 

The girls were up first on Tuesday with an important game for several reasons. Not only was it senior night and a rivalry game with the Bearcats, but after defeating Paso Robles on Oct. 11 they still had a chance to take third in the Mountain League. After the loss to Paso Robles, the AHS girls fell to 16-9 overall. They had gained ground on the ‘Cats who had dropped six straight when Atascadero beat them last due to an injury to their top scorer, Tatianna Smeltzer and with a win Tuesday would have moved the Greyhounds into third place.

Paso Robles was still without their top scorer on Tuesday but a motivated Bearcats team played hard and smart and ultimately outlasted the Hounds and capitalized on their mistakes. 

“It is hard not having Tatianna but I feel like as a team we came together and all took her position and divided it between us all,” Bearcats senior captain Halle Nash said after the game. “Just having the loss of her doesn’t mean the team is going to suck. When people think that Tatianna is going out they think we are going to lose but we all came together for our best game and it was cool.”

The game started as perfect for the Hounds as it could have with two early goals, one by Delaney Rice and one by Meghan Calmere and it seemed Atascadero would take a 2-0 lead into the second until Nash fired a last-second heave from behind the halfway point that hit the back of the cage as the horn sounded. The goal not only cut the lead in half but also instantly sucked all the momentum that had been building. 

Atascadero and the Bearcats went back and forth in the second quarter. Nash tied the game at 2, on a numbers advantage due to an exclusion, and the Hounds took it immediately back on their next possession, drawing a kick out, on a Makayla Power goal. 

Nash scored again at the end of the quarter, not quite as theatrically as the first time, to tie the game up again and send it to halftime at 3-all.

The Hounds were held scoreless in the second half while the Bearcats netted two additional goals, sealing the game and third place in the Mountain League. 

“This is a great group of girls and they are an emotional group,” AHS head coach Rob Rucker said following the game. “They love the game, they love their team, they love their family and it’s hard. They realize that their time here in the pool is nearing an end and that makes it very difficult for them. That might have slowed us down but they didn’t execute. It’s a tough way to lose, you would love to win on senior night but you take what you get.”

The Atascadero boys (16-9) opening ceremony was delayed just a tad before their game on Wednesday due to technical issues, which, in some ways, was more apropos as these seniors have spent a lot of time dealing with a broken pool. 

While the Greyhound girls started quickly in their game, it was the opposite for the boys who found themselves down 3-1 about three minutes into the first quarter. A Will Shoemaker goal cut the Tigers’ lead to one on the next possession but the Tigers put another in the back of the cage to end the quarter and were up 4-2.

After combining for six total points in the first quarter, the teams only put half that many in during the second as the Tigers took a 5-3 lead into halftime. The Hounds broke their huddles between quarters and timeouts with different breaks, at times chanting family in unison and even once giving a shoutout to one of their seniors yelling, “Blake” for Blake Power who was in street clothes on the bench.

The Tigers ran away with the game a little in the third quarter extending their lead to 8-4 but the resilient Hounds fought back by scoring three goals in the final frame for a final score of 9-7. 

Both the boys and the girls teams will be turning their sights to the playoffs as the girls are hopeful for a home playoff game to start. Both the girls and the boys play in Division 2 which makes it tricky to determine their playoff seeding because they play so many teams that are in Division 1 including three from their league. If the divisions are set up correctly, the Hounds should theoretically never have a chance to finish higher than third, and they finished fourth.

Home games can not be held at the Atascadero pool, in the postseason, because it does not meet regulations. Initial indications are that the Hounds will be leaning toward using the Morro Bay Pirates new pool or Arroyo Grande if they receive a home game.

Getting through this together, Atascadero