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May 25, 2022

Prep Water Polo: Garcia leads Cougars past Gilroy

GILROY—Tuesday was all about Natalie Garcia.
The Christopher senior was stellar on both sides of the ball and was the driving force behind her team’s 18-4 win over Gilroy at home. The Cougars have won both contests with the Mustangs this season.
Garcia scored seven goals on nine attempts in addition to three steals and two assists.
“Natalie is a scoring machine,” CHS coach Jim Shuster said. “She has the talent to swim with the ball like no other. …There’s no doubt she has an extreme amount of talent. She’s quick; she’s smart. When you think she’s just swimming, she’s not—she’s thinking.”
Garcia scored five of her seven goals in the first half, including the Cougars’ first two of the game. She fired a shot at Gilroy’s Vanessa Marquez in net and the Mustang goalie stopped the shot, but didn’t clear it. Garcia grabbed her own rebound and scored on take two, just 15 seconds into the game. She struck again just a minute and a half later on a shot to the far side to put her team ahead 2-0.
“We worked well as a team and we really communicated well. We had really good defense, so I think that helped,” Garcia said. “I think I just had good luck in getting across the pool, having a lot of fast breaks. We definitely worked on defense during practice; we’ve been working on that a lot.”
Gilroy finally got on the board with 3:42 remaining in the half when Yvanna Marin fired a shot passed Christopher’s Nicole Andresen, making it 8-1 at that point. The Cougars added goals from Ashley Irby and another from Garcia to take a 10-1 at the half.
“We’re just young; we’re rebuilding,” Gilroy coach Fred Latimore. “We’ve got a lot to learn and that’s all.”
The Mustangs had chances, but Andresen’s play in the first half—she played on offense after the break, allowing a JV goalie to get playing time—was just too good. The Cougar stopped five of Ariane Lussier’s shots, including one she just got her fingertips on to keep out of the net just before time expired in the first quarter.
“It was harder (playing Christopher this time),” Lussier said. “At the same time, I think we did better defense-wise. It was more challenging than the first time around.”
Lussier led the Mustangs with three goals on seven attempts as well as seven steals.
Gilroy had trouble with its transition game, eating up most of the shot clock while swimming to the other end of the pool. Christopher, on the other hand, utilized its fast swimmers like freshman Sierra Ceballos, who was a perfect 3 for 3 in the game with two assists and two steals.
“Gilroy has a lot of heart and the girls really try hard. They really need some swimmers, some of the Gators, to really make a difference,” Shuster said. “We have the advantage of having a lot of fast swimmers, so turnovers for us are a big plus.”
Irby and Malaya Santos both scored two goals for Christopher, while Emma Seery, Hannah Marquez, Allie Souza and Paige Gallardo each added one.
Gilroy (1-6) will be back in action at 5 p.m. Thursday to host Stevenson and Lussier said the Mustangs definitely have some things to work on before then.
“I think quick passes—that’s definitely our weakness,” she said. “We have a tendency of lagging when we go to takes shots. Also (we need to work on) swimming back; it’s a hard time swimming back.”
Christopher (8-8 overall, 5-3 in league) will play Monterey at Santa Catalina at 6 p.m. Thursday and Garcia said she’d like to see better teamwork for that contest.
“We need to communicate more and work well together because that’s really important,” she said. “We can have a lot of strong individual players, but we won’t be strong as a team unless we work together.”

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