Robbed of a shot: Bearcats miss out on playoff bid

Arroyo Grande — When the final buzzer of the third-place game started buzzing and the Greyhounds began celebrating their first second-place finish in league since the 1990s, the Lady Bearcats swam back to their side and respectfully shook the hands of their bitter rivals. They talked about the mistakes they made and the places they could improve because they believed that on Saturday morning they would be getting the call for a CIF game, but the call never came.

The Bearcats lost their final game 6-2, but their standing in the conference had already been decided before anyone had even touched the water.

“The way the tiebreaker works in our league, we were going to get fourth place no matter what,” Head Coach Grant East said. “I knew that coming in but didn't let any of the girls know so that they would definitely play as hard as they could.”

Paso’s standing in league was set before squaring off with the Hounds in the third-place game for a third consecutive year because Atascadero and Righetti split their games this season and went undefeated against the rest of league, except for Arroyo Grande.

The Bearcats hovered in and around the top 20 rankings all season in Division 5 and Paso intentionally reworked their schedule this year and added more winnable games because last season proved that overall record is important.

The Bearcats’ final game against the Hounds was a microcosm of their season — unlucky and at times, downright cruel. Paso was just seconds away from tying the game against Arroyo Grande earlier this season, and actually did, but it was waved off by the official for a clock error. Then in one of their final games of the season, the girls dropped a heartbreaker to Righetti 9-7 in overtime.

Against the Hounds, the Bearcats drew three five-meter penalty shots and had Tatiana Smeltzer, one of the top offensive weapons, take all three and Atascadero’s goalie Tina Bell blocked all of them.

“It is hard, sometimes it just doesn't go your way and today it didn't go our way over and over again,” East said after the game.

The Bearcats had plenty of chances — five times they had at least a one-girl advantage due to an exclusion but hit the cage over and over again or did not move the ball around enough to capitalize on their advantage.

“I mean, every single look to win that game was there,” East said. “We had one on the goalie opportunities where we just weren’t patient enough or didn’t slide to the correct position to take the shot.”

The silver lining for the Bearcats is that they are an extremely young team. They will graduate only two seniors this season — Mikayla Rose and Mackenzie Miller — and will be bringing back their captain and top scorers next year in what should be the first year water polo is played on campus at Paso Robles High School.


© 2019-Paso Robles Press

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