The Kimball High girls water polo team earned its fourth consecutive trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 championship game.
The Jaguars moved forward with their 16-7 win on Wednesday over Bear River High of Grass Valley, and now will face Sonora High in what has become a regular post-season rivalry.
“We didn’t play them in league, but they’re still one of our top rivals, so to see them again in the finals, it’s going to be a really tense game,” said sophomore Sofia Orihuela.
This will be the fourth year in a row that the Jaguars (19-10, 6-2 Valley Oak League) have made the SJS Division 3 championship game, with Sonora the opponent the past two years. Kimball beat Sonora 10-7 in 2016, and Sonora won last year’s championship game 6-5. Kimball beat El Capitan 10-8 in 2015. This year Sonora is the No. 1 seed in Division 3 and Kimball is No. 2.
Senior Izzy Ballutay said she’s confident that she and other returning players will make up for last year’s 6-5 loss to Sonora in the championship game.
“I think this year we have kind of a younger team,” she said. “We have only four seniors and one junior and most of our team is made up of sophomores. Either way, we’re there to win. We’re going to beat them and we’re just going to be confident, but not too much. We’re ready.”
The four seniors are Ballutay, Klara Sawander, Jovanna Berber and goalie Amanda Thompson, players that Orihuela said are inspirations to the team.
“I feel like we have been getting closer over the last two weeks. We’re going to be playing for our seniors,” Orihuela said.
Coach Tess DeLange, now in her second year with the team, said she’s also confident that the sting of last year’s close loss to Sonora will motivate the Jaguars on Saturday.
“It’s something we’ve been working for all season and I think it’s something we’re good enough to do,” she said. “We want to get back at them.”
The Jaguars took control early in Wednesday’s game, starting with three goals in the first two minutes. Ballutay scored first, then passed to sophomore Jill Lucero for the second goal, and Lucero scored the third goal.
Bear River scored on goals from Magdelyn O’Callaghan and Whitney Lybbert to cut Kimball’s lead to 3-2, but that’s as close as the Bruins would get. Orihuela scored on an assist from Ballutay, and Ballutay scored on an assist from Lucero to make it a 5-2 game at the end of the first quarter.
Ballutay went on to score four more goals in the second quarter on her way to a game-high seven goals. Lucero and junior Olivia Taylor also scored in the second quarter as the Kimball defense, including Berber and sophomore Jenika Tanjuakio, made repeated steals. They held the Bruins to just one goal, a penalty shot, in the second quarter, to put Kimball up 11-3.
Five players scored a goal each for the Jaguars in the third quarter, including Tanjuakio, Orihuela, Ballutay, Lucero and Sawander. The Bruins’ Areial Swindell scored for her team at the end of the third quarter on a long shot across the pool to make it a 16-4 game.
The Bruins scored three more goals in the fourth quarter, one for Swindell and two for O’Callaghan.
Saturday’s championship game will be at 10 a.m. at the Roseville Aquatics Complex, next door to Woodcreek High School, in Roseville.