Diablo Valley is excited to be hosting the men’s and women’s Big 8 Conference Water Polo Championships this week.
The DVC men’s team (8-12, 3-2), under new head coach Zach Roberts, has reason for optimism heading into the three-day event, which begins with men’s action on Thursday.
Roberts says the team has experienced a lot of individual and collective growth this season. Players have accepted new responsibilities such taking the scoring initiative in pressure situations
“It’s cool to see that growth and exiting moving forward,” Roberts said.
On Thursday, No. 4 seed American River will face No. 5 Modesto at 10 a.m., and No. 3 DVC will meet No. 6 Santa Rosa at 11:15 a.m. The winner of Game 1 will face No. 1 seed San Joaquin Delta in the semifinals at 3:45 p.m. Thursday, and the winner of Game 2 will battle No. 2 Sierra at 5 p.m.
The men’s championship game is at 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by the women’s final at 6:10 p.m.
The No. 6 seeded DVC women’s team will open against No. 3 American River at 10 a.m. Friday, with the winner advancing to the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Roberts’ team, which has beaten Delta and suffered a close loss to Sierra, could win the conference crown if it plays up to its potential, he says. Should the Vikings triumph this week, it would set them up for a No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round of the regional state playoffs.
“The North is pretty wide open,” Roberts said.
Max Murphy leads the Vikings in scoring with 66 goals (tied for 10th in the state) and assists with 24. He also has 33 steals, No. 2 on the team. Defensive stalwart Gordon Kerns leads the team in steals with 35. He has logged heavy minutes to allow others to have more freedom of movement.
Zac Hudson, the Vikings’ lone sophomore, is No. 2 on the team with 43 goals, and Pat Hallahan has 40 goals.

The first-place Vikings (13-1-4, 8-1-4) will look to remain unbeaten at home this season against San Joaquin Delta (12-4-2, 6-4-2) at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in Stockton on Sept. 30, a game in which Megan Melara and Noelle Lemos scored for the Vikings.
The Vikings are an impressive 8-0-1 at home this season.
DVC notched two wins last week, beating Modesto 1-0, courtesy of the first goal of the season by defender Jessica Jaime, in the 37th minute. Katie McLaughlin made two saves for the shutout. She has 10 clean sheets this season, seven in conference.
On a rainy Friday, the Vikings bested visiting Sacramento City 4-0. Karla Ramos, the hero with a goal in the 90th minute of a 1-0 win over Cosumnes River on Oct. 18, had a goal and an assist in the first half as the Vikings jumped ahead 3-0. Cameron Chan and Lemos, who has a team-high 10 goals, scored in the first half, and Melara rounded out the scoring in the 90th minute.
A trio of players have seven goals apiece for the clutch Vikings – Vanessa Ruvalcaba, Melara and Ramos.

The Vikings had flexed some muscle at the Big 8 Conference championships as the men’s and women’s team both finished second.
Ariana Corwin paced the women, finishing sixth overall and first-team all-conference with a time of 19 minutes, 43 seconds in the 5k.
Jessica Mendez-All-Conference 2nd team (13th place). 20:15 (5k).
Kevin Orellana led the DVC men’s team by taking eighth place in the 4.1-mile race with a time of 21:40, and was second-team all-conference. Also making the all-conference second team were Ian Rider (11th, 21:45) and Ata Ozmen (13th, 21:54).

DVC, ranked 10th in the Preseason Northern California Poll and No. 19 in the state by the CCCMBCA, will open the season in the Tom Costello Tip-Off Classic at Las Positas with a 1 p.m. game against Columbia on Thursday.
The eight-team tournament will continue with games on Friday and Saturday. DVC is also ranked 19th in the Preseason State Poll.

The Vikings will open the season against Monterey at 2 p.m. Friday in the Mission College Tournament. DVC is coming off a strong season in which it finished 22-10 and was just one win away from advancing to the CCCAA State Final Four.
The Vikings, as the No. 4 seed, topped district rival Contra Costa 82-80 in overtime to open the regional playoffs, before routing Sacramento City 73-40 in Round 3. Then the Vikings, led by all-NorCal State selection Jojuan Carrington and Brandy Williams, fell to No. 1 seed CCSF 64-56 in the regional finals.

Christian Fuca, a San Ramon Valley High graduate, had nine receptions for 92 yards in the Vikings’ 44-3 loss to host Santa Rosa on Saturday in the Bay 6.
The tough defeat dropped DVC (5-3, 1-2) into a tie for fourth place with district-rival Contra Costa (2-6, 1-2), which will visit DVC at Viking Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday night.
The Vikings had some bright spots on defense. Linebacker Kory Lamberts continued his productive play with a team-high 10 total tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss. Brenton Allen had eight total tackles, a sack and 1.5 TFL. Dylon Gilfoy had 1.5 sacks, and three players each had a half-sack -- Ville Valasti, Quentin Casey and Peter Moa. Valasti and Gilfoy are tied for fourth in the state in sacks with 10 apiece.
On special teams, Shane Morris had three kickoff returns for a total of 83 yards.

The Vikings (9-10, 5-7 Big 8) dropped 3-1 decisions against both Sacramento City (19-1, 11-1) and Santa Rosa (6-16, 3-9) last week. DVC will host Modesto on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Cailey Rocquemore had 17 digs and Isabel Villalobos had 16 digs against Sac City. Ashley Dixon had a team-high 16 kills against Santa Rosa, and Jasmine Assia had a productive game with 35 assists and 19 digs. Brittany Portelo had a team-high 22 digs.
- Matt Schwab