First-year coach Sergio Castaneda and the Carpinteria High School girls water polo team traveled to Santa Paula last week to take on the Cardinals in their second Citrus Coast League (CCL) match of the season. After a slow start, trailing 7-2 before the half, the Warriors came charging back in the final quarter to get within two goals but ultimately fell by a score of 14-8. The game was originally scheduled to be played in town, but the schools switched home dates due to scheduled maintenance at the Community Pool last week. As a result, Carpinteria will get a shot at redemption when Santa Paula visits on Jan. 22.

The Cardinals captured the first two goals of the contest when Alani Mercado netted both in the last two minutes of the opening stanza. “I think without being in the pool for a few weeks, it definitely showed, especially with the other team being very physical …,” said Castaneda whose team was in the midst of their academic winter break, also missing practice time due to the pool’s recent closure. The visitors had a couple of good opportunities to get on the board both early and late in the period but Santa Paula goalie Katie Falls was able to make a pair of good stops, first on Sadie Mead and then Jessica Cruz, to preserve a 2-0 lead going into the second quarter.

The second quarter saw the home team extend their lead, as Mercado notched three more goals to help give the Cardinals a five goal advantage at the break. Mercado would lead all scorers on the day with five, all coming in the first half. “Freshman Natalia Perez had a great game, with a crucial goal in the second quarter, and smart movement on offense and defense,” said Castaneda. Warriors’ goalie Kate Gay also made a couple of key saves to keep the deficit from growing any larger.  

The third quarter belonged to Carpinteria as they outscored their opponent 3-1, bringing the score to 8-5. Cassidy Hajducko led the way with two goals in the third, while Cruz tipped one in with 1:08 left in the period. “It took us a few quarters to get there, which is why the game got close,” explained Castaneda.

The Warriors even crept a bit closer with Sadie Mead’s goal early in the fourth, putting her squad within two when the score hit 8-6. Mead added two more goals in the final frame to lead the team in scoring on the day with three. However, the Cardinals responded quickly with Yamilea Ramirez picking up a rebound near the two-meter mark and converting it to a goal to stretch the lead to 9-6 with 5:25 left in the game. Santa Paula then went on a tear, scoring five goals in a little over four minutes to push the lead to 14-6 with 1:58 remaining. “With this being the Warriors’ first League loss, there was a bit of sadness, but also a reminder of how much room there is to grow, since the team is so young,” said Castaneda whose players are primarily freshmen and sophomores.

The loss puts Carpinteria at 1-1 in League and 1-2 overall. The Warriors host Hueneme on Thursday, Jan. 10, at the Community Pool in another CCL matchup at 3:15 p.m.  

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