By Tyler Nelson
In a thrilling double overtime finish, the Riverside Community College women’s water polo team achieved the ultimate goal of winning their fifth state title against Santa Barbara City College on Nov. 19 at Las Positas College.
The Tigers, who were the No. 2 seed of the south bracket, led throughout the game and sported an 8-5 lead heading into the final quarter of the championship game.
However, the Vaqueros showed why they were the No.1 seed as they managed to score three straight goals against the Tigers in the final quarter, tying the game at 8-8 and sending the game into overtime.
“The fourth quarter was a tough one,” Coach Doug Finfrock said. “We spent a lot of time this year working on mental toughness and understanding that in big games, teams will make a push and it is all about how we respond,” he said.
With only 10 seconds left in the first overtime period, sophomore attacker Mary Myers scored the game winning goal against the Vaqueros. The Tigers managed to hold on and played excellent defense in the second overtime period winning the game 9-8.
Meyers, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, finished the game with a game-high four goals and five steals. Captain Emily Martin had two goals herself while sophomore Anay Ramirez also added two goals. Goalkeeper Ariana Olmos had 10 saves, three of them during overtime.
Besides being named tournament MVP, Meyers along with Olmos and Martin, were also named to the California Community College Athletic Association All-State Tournament team for RCC. The Tigers have three of the seven players named to the team.
The Tigers have managed to the reach the state championship game for the fourth consecutive year. But, for the past three seasons, they’ve finished as runners ups. Coach Finfrock knew his team could finally make it over the hump.
“This year was all about the leadership and determination of the sophomores and the willingness of the freshman to buy-in,” Finfrock said. “We had a very talented group and several were freshman, but the sophomores were just determined to win and didn’t want a repeat of the finals like last year.”
This victory marks the fifth championship trophy for the Tigers in the tournament’s 20-year history dating back to 1996. In the tournament’s 20 year exist, the Tigers have managed to reach the ultimate game 11 times.
“I’m not sure it has completely sunk in yet,” Finfrock said. “I have been a part of all five championships, but this one being my first as a head coach and after finishing runner-up the previous three years, is very special.”
The Tigers finished off their season overall at 30-3 and 7-1 in the Orange Empire Conference.