Playing their seventh game in just six days, the Berkeley High water polo teams each put up a gutsy effort but couldn’t beat highly-regarded California High (San Ramon).
The boys’ team, playing first, showed their weary legs as California jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter. Brooks Jenkins and Matt Kalafatis each scored two goals in the period, and Jenkins added two more goals in the second quarter to give the home team a 8-2 halftime lead.
“Cal has a good, disciplined program, and they come out to establish what they want to do,” said Berkeley coach Bill Graeber. “Nobody’s ever ready for that explosion out of the gate.”
The Yellowjackets were also at a disadvantage in an Olympic-sized, 12-foot-deep pool. Berkeley practices and plays its home games at Willard Pool, which has a shallow end and only goes as deep as six feet, and is much narrower than California’s pool.
“It’s easy to get spread out wide of the goal on offense,” said Berkeley’s Carl Wasman. “It was hard to get our offense going early.”
California’s coach took advantage of the big lead, playing several of his less experienced players in the second half. Jenkins was pulled during the third quarter having totaled seven goals in the match as the Yellowjackets fell even farther behind, allowing five goals for a 13-4 deficit heading into the final period.
The ’Jackets finally put things together in the fourth quarter, outscoring California 5-2 to close the game. Wasman rang up three goals in less than two minutes, and Joe Ravera completed his hat trick with two goals in the period.
“We wanted to score in the last quarter, to get the score a little closer,” Wasman said. “No one likes losing by a bunch of goals.”
The girls game was considerably more competitive, with neither team able to build more than a one-goal lead at any point in the match. Berkeley’s two snipers, Cody Keffer and Sonja Graves, took advantage of their few offensive opportunities with pinpoint shots. Keffer scored four goals and Graves three, accounting for all but one of the Yellowjacket goals. California countered with the scoring prowess of Amy Ng, who scored five of her team’s nine goals, four from point-blank range.
In addition to being tired by their hectic schedule, the ’Jackets were short-handed for the match as four of their bench players were unavailable. The lack of substitutes showed in the second half, as California’s players began counterattacking with venom, outswimming the visitors and gaining breakaways on the Berkeley goal. Only the play of ’Jacket goalie Amy Degenkolb kept them from opening a big lead, as she turned away several shots with spectacular saves.
“She’s been improving with every game,” Graeber said of his net-minder. “She has no fear in there.”
Berkeley took a one-goal lead in the fourth quarter on a long-range goal from Keffer, and the ’Jackets desperately tried to keep California from knotting the score. But a bit of bad luck interceded, as Keffer deflected a California pass into her own net with two minutes left, and the race was on for the final goal.
The teams were still tied 8-8 with 12 seconds left in the match when Berkeley’s Trina Jones was ejected from play for an intentional foul. After a time-out, California took advantage of their extra player as Kerry Aires fired a shot past ‘Jacket goalie Amy Degenkolb for the victory with just five seconds left on the clock.