The West Valley women's water polo team made history Saturday by winning its first-ever CCCAA water polo state championship with a thrilling 6-5 win over Santa Barbara City College at Las Positas College. The Viking win is the second-ever for a northern California team (Sierra 2018) and, with coach Erika Vargas at the helm, the first ever for a female coach. Amazingly, WVC beat the always-tough Vaqueros for the fourth time this season, a feat that is never easy.
The title game came down to a Kiki Melvin field block at the buzzer, as the Vikings (32-2) turned away the Vaqueros (30-7) twice in the closing minute. Trailing 6-5, Santa Barbara got the ball back with :11 remaining after an unforced WVC error by keeper Grace Smith. SBCC coach Chuckie Roth called a timeout and set up a play that called for Vaquero goalie Chloe McKay - and a seven-player to six advantage - to start the play at mid-pool. McKay walked the ball in and fired a shot with two seconds left that Melvin slapped away to cement the title and touch off a wet and wild celebration for the team and fans in the WVC end of the pool.
Said a drenched Vargas after getting dunked in the traditional postgame celebration, "We've been through so much the last two years, with COVID. But, we stood together as one, stuck to our game plan this weekend and took care of business. This was my goal since I was hired and we did it!"
Saturday's game was all West Valley early, as the Vikings jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals from Paige McCroskey, Johanna Scheer and Aaliyah Lax. A Santa Barbara goal from Emily Clapham made it 3-1 after one. The Vaqueros came all the way back in the second with goals from Jenna Olsen and Charlize Winter. Melvin scored with 3:28 left in the half to give West Valley, who never trailed in the game, a 4-3 advantage at the break.
The teams traded goals in the third with Ensley Letterman scoring for SBCC at 7:20 and Melvin finding the back of the cage with :14 left in the quarter. Winter got the equalizer for SBCC at the 6:51 mark in the fourth, but state scoring leader Scheer netted the game-winner with 5:49 to go. The teams traded bar-outs - the sound of balls hitting uprights and crossbars was constant throughout - until the dramatic Melvin-field-block-ending.
Melvin and Scheer paced the champions with two goals apiece, while Lax and McCroskey tallied one goal each. Smith followed her 19-save semifinal effort with 11 saves. Appropriately, Smith was the unanimous choice for tournament MVP, while Melvin and Scheer were named to the All-Tournament team.
Semifinal: West Valley over Fullerton 14-11
In Friday's semifinal against Fullerton College, a big second quarter keyed the win for the Vikings. Neida Torres gave the Hornets (29-8) a lead after the opening sprint, but the Vikings headed to the second quarter with a 3-2 advantage after goals from Scheer, Marija Mijuskovic and Fatima Gonzalez Garcia. Mijuskovic stayed hot in a 6-2 Viking second quarter with three consecutive goals, while Scheer, Melvin and Lax added single scores for the Vikings for a 9-4 lead at the break. WVC was in command after three with a 12-6 lead, but Fullerton came alive in the fourth, outscoring the Vikings 5-2. A Megan Ditlof goal brought the Hornets to within 13-10 with just over two minutes left, but Melvin provided the clincher on WVC's next possession.
Mijuskovic paced the WVC stat sheet with five goals, with Scheer netting four and Melvin adding three. Smith turned in the top performance of the tournament with an astounding 19 saves.