Need a motivational speech? Bill Gaebler might be your man.
With his Berkeley High girls water polo team down 3-0 late in the first quarter against De Anza High on Thursday, Gaebler called a timeout and gathered his team in a corner of the Willard pool. Although what he said wasn’t audible outside the meeting, whatever Gaebler said had an undeniable effect; the Yellowjackets (5-4 overall, 4-3 ACCAL) outscored De Anza 9-4 the rest of the way to claim a 9-7 win in Berkeley’s ACCAL regular season finale.
“I just reminded the team about what we worked on in practice,” Gaebler said. “When we started to play like we practiced, we got a lot better.”
Most of the adjustment came on defense, where Gaebler’s girls worked hard to limit the shots of De Anza stars Jenna Casady and Julie Galvan. Although the duo combined to score six of their team’s seven goals, the Jackets pushed Galvan further and further away from the Berkeley goal as the game went on and kept a tight watch on Casady, who is the league’s best scorer from the outside. No De Anza player other than Galvan or Casady scored until there were just 10 seconds left in the game.
“Casady is probably the best player in the league, so I just told the girls to clamp down on her no matter where she was,” Gaebler said.
While the De Anza (8-6, 2-4) attack stalled with their two best players blanketed, the Yellowjackets took advantage of their opportunities, converting all three man-up situations into goals and counterattacking well. Junior Carina Degenkolb led the way with five goals, including two power play scores, while Sade Bonilla and Lana Tilley each scored twice. Bonilla also played great defense on Galvan in the hole, and Berkeley goalkeeper Perry Kramer stepped up her game after giving up two soft goals in the first period.
The turnaround came in the second quarter, as Berkeley scored five straight goals to take a two-goal lead. The Jackets also got a bit of luck, as three De Anza shots hit iron during that stretch. Although Galvan scored with less than a minute left in the half to pull her team within a goal, momentum was clearly on Berkeley’s side.
The third quarter was quiet, with the teams trading goals before Galvan was ejected for an intentional foul. Bonilla scored on the ensuing power play, and the Dons never got within a goal again.
Berkeley will likely head into the ACCAL tournament in two weeks as the No. 4 seed, with De Anza or Alameda its likely first-round opponent. Gaebler considers the tournament to be wide open, with six of the eight teams having a legitimate shot at the title.