Nash leads a Smeltzer-less team with 3 goals

ATASCADERO — The Paso Robles High School girls water polo team has been through some ups and downs this year as they battle through their long season dealing with injuries. 

The Lady Bearcats started the season on a 9-2 tear but followed that with a 3-7 stretch as they began losing girls and at one point dropped six straight after their leading scorer, Tatianna Smeltzer, went down with a concussion. 

The downturn hit its peak when Paso Robles lost to Atascadero 9-4 on Oct. 11 while playing without a number of their starters but the Bearcats got their revenge on Tuesday when the Hounds hosted PRHS for their senior night, and a shot at third place in the Mountain League, but it was Paso Robles who prevailed 5-3. 

Paso Robles senior Morgan Harrington gets fould while trying to shoot during Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over the Hounds.

“It is hard not having Tatianna,” senior captain and second-leading scorer Halle Nash said following the game. “But I feel like as a team we came together and all took her position and divided it between us all. Just having the loss of her doesn’t mean the team is going to suck when people think that Tatianna is going out they think we are going to lose but we all came together for our best game and it was cool.”

The entire Paso Robles team buckled in on defense, packed into the small pool at Atascadero and made it tough for the Greyhounds to score while being getting just enough offense into the cage to seal the win, and also seal third place in the Mountain League. 

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The game began perfectly for the Hounds and about as bad as possible if you were a supporter in Crimson. Atascadero opened the game with an emotional senior night tribute to their girls that quickly changed the puddles on the pool deck from chlorine run-off to heart-felt tears which gave the Hounds a boost in the pool. The Hounds won the opening race to the ball and promptly put two goals in the back of the cage to take a 2-0 lead on a Bearcats team struggling to generate offense. 

Paso Robles senior Gabby Clayton looks for an open teammate.

Nash took the offense upon herself and started firing shots at the cage. With just seconds left in the first quarter, the Bearcats still down 2-0, Nash grabbed the ball and fired it nearly the full length of the pool. The horn went off as the ball was still flying through the air and every head in the stadium turned to watch the ball hit perfectly in the top corner of the cage. 

Each team argued their side, Atascadero alums claiming she didn’t get it off in time while Paso alums scoffed. After a brief meeting, the officials decided the goal counted and the quarter ended 2-1 with the momentum finally on the side of PRHS. 

Nash tied the game in the second quarter on a nice offensive possession for the Bearcats who drew a kick out and then worked the ball around for an open shot. The Hounds retook the lead briefly, on their possession with an advantage later in the second quarter but it would be the last goal they scored as the Bearcats’ defense pitched a shutout in the second half. 

Abby Springer takes a shot from outside.

As she had done all afternoon, Nash once again answered the call to step up and put one more huge goal in the back of the net before halftime sending it to the break tied at 3.

“It was really nice,” Nash said. “I liked stepping up and taking the lead in this game and it was really cool because once we got a couple of goals in the team all got super happy and ready to play and it feels really good to lead my team.”

Paso Robles beat the Hounds 5-3 on Tuesday and then beat Nipomo on Thursday 13-7 bringing their season record to 17-10 on the year. The Bearcats will certainly be heading to the postseason after the conclusion of their regular season which wraps up this week, but have one last statement they would like to try and make in their final regular-season game. 

If everything goes according to plan the Bearcats should be back at full strength this week and on Tuesday will honor their seniors against the Arroyo Grande Eagles who come in riding a 160-plus consecutive league winning streak. Paso Robles wants to be the one to break it. Over the past three years the Lady Bearcats have been closing the gap between Righetti, Arroyo Grade and everyone else and pushed the Eagles to the brink in a game at the Municipal Pool two years ago and hope to make some history this week.

“The last time we played them in their pool it was 8-5, the years before that when we had close games with them at Muni they would blow us out by 10 in the deep water and then it’s been a one- or two-goal game in the shallow end,” Bearcats head coach Grant East said. “So if we can hold them to three, I am a little scared for them for what can happen in the shallow end.”