The College of San Mateo women’s water polo team put together one of its best efforts of the season in earning a key 8-6 win over visiting West Valley Wednesday afternoon.
While the Bulldogs played well all four quarters, it was a stellar third period that sparked CSM to the win.
“That was our best quarter of the season. We clicked,” said CSM coach Randy Wright. “The way the game was shaping up, you knew one big quarter could decide it.”
The tidal wave of momentum that swung over to the Bulldogs’ side of the pool actually began at the end of the second period. With the score tied at 2 midway through the second period, West Valley scored two unanswered goals within 30 seconds of each other to take a 4-2 lead.
Jasmine Zaldivar’s goal with 11 seconds left before halftime, however, proved to be the jump-start the CSM offense needed.The second of Zaldivar’s four goals on the day pulled the Bulldogs to 4-3 at halftime and her third goal 36 seconds into the third period tied the game at 4.
The Bulldogs went on to score three more times in the third period to take a 7-4 lead going into the final eight minutes of the match.
“It was really a momentum boost,” Wright said.
CSM took the lead for good, 5-4, on Zaldivar’s third-straight goal, scoring off an assist from Sinclaire Cheong. Erica Staben fired home a shot on a CSM power play from the perimeter to give the Bulldogs a 6-4 advantage before Shelby Chung scored CSM’s third goal on the man-advantage with 44 seconds left in the period to put the Bulldogs up 7-4 going into the fourth period.
CSM scored on both of its power plays in the third period, after scoring just once on four opportunities in the first two quarters.
The Bulldogs pushed their lead to 8-4 less than a minute into the fourth quarter when Cheong took an assist from Zaldivar on a fastbreak from a play triggered by CSM goaltender Ashley Mullany.
All told, CSM scored six unanswered goals, turning a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter for its biggest lead of the match.
The Vikings scored a pair of goals late in the match to make the final result look closer than it really was.
As good as the CSM offense was, the defense was just as strong. In that third period, the Bulldogs weathered three West Valley man-advantage situations and Mullany came up with four saves in the quarter. She finished with 10 for the match.
The game got off to a slow start as the teams managed to score just one goal apiece in the first period. West Valley got on the scoreboard first when Jessi Boyamankin slammed home a backhand shot just 55 seconds into the match.
CSM equalized on Zaldivar’s first goal of the game on the power play at the 3:19 mark.
Wright said he wasn’t surprised the game got off to a slow start as both teams focused on defense.
“You knew it would be a tough first quarter,” Wright said. “After that, we made it happen.
“We locked up the first quarter. That’s what I am. I don’t want a shootout. I want the game plan to take over.”
West Valley took a 2-1 in the second quarter when Boyamankin tipped in a shot that just eluded Mullany 1:10 into the period, but CSM came right back 25 seconds later on a Chung score to tie the match at 2.
West Valley scored the next two goals before the Bulldogs came roaring back.
The match was a big one for both teams as the winner would stay in second place. Neither team has a real shot at catching Foothill for the Coast Conference regular-season title, but a second-place finish would mean that team would avoid Foothill until the finals of the Coast Conference tournament, which begins two weeks from Friday.
The win keeps the Bulldogs tied for second with Cabrillo, while West Valley falls into fourth place.
“No one wants to be that fourth seed (in the conference tournament and face the possibility of playing Foothill in the semifinals),” Wright said. “[Tuesday was] a big win. It’s a great win.”