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December 9, 2023

WATER POLO: GHS, CHS water polo players honored with league awards

If you ever lost track of Gilroy High water polo player Michelle Shields in the pool, the first place to look might be all alone in front of an opponents’ cage, waiting for a pass after she out-swam the rest of the field.

If she still can’t be spotted among all the splashing and flailing arms, just listen for a shrill scream, which usually indicated that she was open.

Shields’ “shout heard ’round the pool” became infamous, but her production for the Mustangs is what really defined her reputation.

Shields, who registered 69 goals for a rebuilding GHS squad, was named to the Tri-County Athletic League Mountain Division first-team – her second straight distinction.

“I feel very blessed to have had her play for me this year. She really helped me transition into my position,” first-year head coach Travis Gamble said. 

“She was a huge part of this team and did whatever she needed to do in order to turn the game in the right direction. It is going to be hard to fill her spot next year as a player and as a captain. She is one of the most impressive players I have seen.”

Over the past two seasons, Shields has scored 138 goals and swiped 143 steals, including 85 this fall.

“She was known by every coach in this league, and when brought up for receiving first-team all-league, it was a unanimous decision,” Gamble said. 

Senior Francesca Comin, who was second on the team in goals scored, earned a second-team nod and sophomore Abby Kienle was distinguished with the Richard Chamberlin Sportsmanship Award, which is delegated to one member of each team.

On the boys’ side, it makes perfect sense that Michelle’s twin brother Michael, led the Mustangs with 96 goals and 111 steals – a resume plenty strong to garner his own first-team all-league honor. Shields, the Mustangs hole set, helped GHS to a much-improved 6-10 record and a fifth-place finish at the year-end league championship tournament. Shields was also Gilroy’s representative for the Sportsmanship Award. Adding to the boys’ list are Garrett Pipkin, who was named to the second-team, and Brendan Reimer who was selected as the Valley Division’s Freshman of the Year.

Though the Christopher High girls varsity water polo team endured a turbulent first season, the Cougars knew they could always turn to Kaitlin Ramirez for an added push.

Ramirez, who played on the boys’ team in 2010, was the captain for head coach Paul Wells in the girls’ inaugural 2011 campaign. And with her team-high 59 goals, the junior attacker was named to the TCAL Valley Division first-team.

“This year she has become a complete player; she has enough speed to get the job done, but her water polo IQ is astonishing. She really understands the game,” CHS coach Paul Wells said.

Cristina Mendoza was given the Sportsmanship Award.

Sophomore Matthew Higginbotham’s first-team selection leads a group of three CHS boys water polo awards. Brennan Wilson earned second-team and Brennan Laden the Sportsmanship Award. Higginbotham paced the Cougars with 42 goals.

“He continues to improve as an offensive player and is capable of so much more,” Wells said. “He is very smart and quick-key attributes in the game.”

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