Nov 20, 2015
They've worked hard. Played a tough schedule. Make that a very tough schedule. Now the Diablo Valley College men's and women's water polo teams have their eyes on the big prize.
The NorCal Regional champion Vikings will both compete in four-team CCCAA State Championships Friday and Saturday at Pasadena College.
The Vikings men's team, guided by coach John Roemer, will face South No. 2 Long Beach City at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the semifinals. West Valley will meet Golden West at 1:30 p.m. in the other men's semifinal.
The winners will square off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the title game.
The DVC women, guided by Rick Millington, will meet South No. 2 San Diego Mesa at 12 p.m. in Friday's semifinals. The winner will face either Riverside or San Joaquin Delta in the championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Millington will see a familiar face guiding San Diego Mesa. Northgate High graduate Jim Fegan, who played for Millington at DVC, coaches The Olympians.
"I know him very well, and so I think it's great that we're going up against them," Millington said.
So does Fegan have the inside scoop on Millington's program?
"He said he was taught well," Millington joked.
Andras Telegdy of Hungary, the Vikings top player on a deep men's squad, has been drawing a lot of Division I interest. Other standouts are Lucas Cirado Martinez of Spain, Aldric Terrall of France and Felipe Almeida of Brazil.
DVC has never won a state championship in water polo. But the DVC women appear to be best-positioned to accomplish the feat this year. They have six of seven starters back from last year's third-place state finisher, and the newcomer in goal, Katie Ramm, has been an upgrade.
San Diego Mesa boasts SoCal Player of the Year Bailey Wickliffe, but DVC counters with Megan Dietrich, Ramm and Hannah Dillon, the three top rated players from Northern California.
Not only has Dietrich been a prolific goal scorer, but she's also a smart player, a great passer and a team leader. She might be matched up against Wickliffe.
Ramm, another team leader, is a stellar shot-blocker and an excellent passer. Also a smart player, Dillon has a knack for seeing the opening. She scored five goals against Delta in the NorCal Regional final.
In an all-Vikings men's semifinal battle, DVC will be facing an opponent it knows well. Long Beach has beaten the Vikings in the state semifinals the past two years. Long Beach also beat them twice this season, 15-11 and 12-11.
Now the Vikings need to respond to the situation.
"We know exactly what we're doing," Roemer said. "We know every play and we know what they're doing, so we've been practicing all week on all the little nuances to make sure everything is working right. Hopefully it will work. To me the goal has always been win NorCals. Conference first, but that's been fairly easy the last eight years."
Roemer's Vikings have won the NorCal title three of the past four years, but Southern California competition is no picnic.
"The teams down there are traditionally stronger," Roemer said. "There's just so many teams down there. There are five or six teams down there that all could have gone as the top two."
So the Vikings, with only West Valley to concern themselves with in Northern California, prepare for the CCCAA state gauntlet by facing Division I competition before Big 8 Conference play.
The state's top men's teams have international-laden squads, but the best women's teams have few internationals. Still, the Vikings have found a way in both genders at NorCals.
"It's not an easy task," Millington said of DVC's impressive feat.
-- Matt Schwab