Prep Water Polo: Cougar comeback to beat Balers

Christopher's Paige Gallardo winds back to take a shot during a game against San Benito Oct. 13 at home.

GILROY—The Cougars have been chasing a win in the Montery Bay League-Gabilan Division all season. On Tuesday, they finally got one.
Christopher came back in epic fashion to top rival San Benito 11-8 at home. Cougar goalie Nicole Andresen was unwavering in net and notched 12 saves against the Balers.
“This is the end of season our last few games, and we really wanted to give it our all,” the Cougar netminder said. “We wanted to show that we’re meant to be here.”
Christopher battled its way back to erase a 4-0 deficit early in the first quarter. Trailing by two heading into the second quarter, the speedy Sierra Ceballos scored off a 5-meter penalty shot to get Christopher within a goal. Two minutes later, Malaya Santos fired a high shot to near corner to tie the game at 4-all.
Ceballos made an impossible behind-the-back grab off a shaky pass and sped down into the Balers’ zone from mid-pool. She was all alone in front of the net and put the ball just of out reach for the Baler goalie, giving Christopher a 5-4 lead at halftime.
“There were times when the ball came off the goalie and it was down inside the cages in a matter of seven seconds, which is phenomenal,” Christopher coach Jim Shuster said. “It’s exactly where the girls should be…They’ve never ever beaten this team, but now we can say we have.”
Christopher’s Paige Gallardo scored two quick goals in the third to put her team ahead. The momentum was short lived, however, as San Benito’s lethal Ceily Hepner notched three goals of her own to knot the game at 7-all.
Two minutes later, Ceballos knocked the ball away from the Balers and broke free once again for an unassisted goal. She struck again on the Cougars’ next possession to put her team up 9-7.
But San Benito’s Shannon Stephens kept things interesting with a perfectly placed goal with just half a second left in the third to get her team within a score.
Christopher’s Ceballos and Megan Velho added the final two goals in the fourth to secure the victory while holding the Balers scoreless.
“(Christopher) did a good job of sealing up Grace Larson, who is one of our studs, and also Shannon Stephens,” Balers coach Fred Latimore said. “They had a plan to do that. I know they had a plan to seal Ciely, too, but we were able to get the ball back out to her.”
Hepner and Larson each tallied three goals for the Balers. Stephens added two, including the first score of the game off a cross-pool pass from Hepner.
“Our girls played hard, especially in the first half,” Latimore said. “I think we got a little tired—we don’t have a lot of depth—but that’s on me to get them conditioned and ready for the games.”
Ceballos led Christopher with four goals on five shots. Gallardo notched three goals. Santos scored twice and Maria Higginbothem once.
The Cougars (5-9 overall, 1-7 in league) will take Soquel at 6 p.m. Thursday at Cabrillo College. San Benito will next play in the Los Gatos Tournament, which kicks off Friday.

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