The Cougars' Ryan Koontz had a goal in an 8-3 win over Gilroy on Tuesday. Photo by Bryant Hammer.

In the practices leading up to the Christopher-Gilroy boys water polo match on Oct. 5, the Cougars’ Charlie Wheat and Emiliano Grieco worked on their give-and-go sequences and specific set plays. 

The work paid off as Wheat scored three goals and Grieco two in a 8-3 Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division victory at Christopher High. 

“Emiliano drives in, I drive out for the backdoor play, and we try to work on that as much as possible,” Wheat said. “Gilroy is definitely our rival and it’s always fun to play them.”

While CHS ended up winning the boys contest, GHS won the girls game handily, 16-8. Gianna Bozzo was downright lethal, finishing with eight goals. 

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Mustangs coach Doug Pickford said. “If she had eight goals, she probably had 12 steals. She’s spider woman out there. She’s got such long arms and definitely leads our counter attack.”

Whenever Bozzo received the ball at hole-set, CHS had no answer. Despite the lopsided outcome, the match was actually close early in the second quarter. The Mustangs led 5-4 when CHS had a golden opportunity to get the equalizer. However, Bella Romero produced a spectacular save. Moments later, Bozzo scored off a nice pass from Kim Ortiz which was part of a 5-0 run to end the quarter.

Romero made a couple of outstanding saves and showcased her all-around skills. 

“Bella is so good at coming out and stealing the ball, getting the ball down the pool and starting the counter attack,” Pickford said. “People think of goalies as shot blockers which of course they are, but to be great they have to have a well-rounded game like Bella has. Her knowledge of the game is really solid, she’s very vocal and she’s the quarterback of the defense.”

Potent goal scorer Ortiz had six tallies for Gilroy, which also received solid defense from Hannah Stelzner. 

“She is tough at center defense,” Pickford said. “Hannah literally takes that part away from an opponent.”

With just nine players, GHS needs everyone contributing and as such receives solid reserve play from Samantha Perez, Aubrey Avila, Natalie Franco, Makayla Elias and Julissa Pacheco.

Halina Santos, Alicia Vernon and Val Grieco scored two goals apiece to lead the Cougars, who were simply up against a faster, superior Gilroy squad. Santos did a nice job of working her way to the front of the Gilroy goal for prime scoring opportunities, especially in the first half. In the boys game, Christopher jumped out to a 3-0 lead off two goals from Grieco and one from Wheat. Wheat’s goal came off a beautiful cross pool lob pass from Grieco.

“Emiliano and I practice speciality plays for those game situations,” Wheat said. 

Gilroy had a tough time generating any offense, and either had to dump the ball or couldn’t get a shot off several times in the game. Jacob Harden scored two of the Mustangs’ three goals, with Finn Bingham scoring the other. 

“Gilroy’s No. 7 (Harden) was our biggest worry, and we knew someone always had to drop onto him or it was going to be a bad game for us,” Wheat said. 

Christopher’s defense, led by Grieco and Ryan Koontz, was solid all game. Luke Sutter’s laser shot from the right point gave Christopher its largest lead at 5-1 with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left until halftime. Harden’s second goal and Bingham’s tally bridging the end of the second and beginning of the third quarter brought the Mustangs to within 5-3, but that’s as close as they would get. 

The Cougars scored the final three goals of the match, including the final one off a shot from Koontz from seven meters away. While it’s well known Gilroy has a top-flight goalie in Emmitt Silva, the Cougars also have a solid goalie of their own in Justin Franzen, who made some nice saves. Although Pickford was disappointed in his team’s performance, he gave credit to CHS.

“As a coach you look at it and know we didn’t play well. But you have to give credit to the other team that kind of takes you out of the game a little bit. They caused you to not be able to behave the way you wished to.”

Whenever CHS and GHS play—especially on the boys side in basketball, water polo and football—emotions always run high and if all things are equal, it’s the team that controls its emotions that usually prevail.

“This Christopher game is a big deal to our boys and who knows if they mentally prepared to where they can deal with their own nerves, their own expectations, their own aspirations,” PIckford said. 

Three CCS playoff berths are available in the Gabilan boys division and two for the girls, meaning the Gilroy girls will need to be superior to all the teams outside of Stevenson, the probable league champion. 

Emiliano Grieco celebrates after scoring a goal in the Cougars’ 8-3 win over Gilroy. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Gilroy’s Gianna Bozzo scores one of her eight goals in a 16-8 win over Christopher. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
The Mustangs’ Kim Ortiz scored six goals in a 16-8 win over Christopher. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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