Girls Water Polo: Weldon, Monarchs hold off Tribe
By Patrick Dillon
TULARE – There are stretches of games that define a team’s season. Usually, that happens in league competition but for the Exeter Monarchs, they find themselves in the midst of a four game road stretch that could set a precedent for the D-II playoffs.
Already, clinching a win over the Hanford West Huskies 14-6 last Tuesday the Monarchs traveled to play the Tulare Union Tribe. It came down to a last second shot on Wednesday that Exeter’s goal keeper Morgan Weldon saved to preserve the Monarchs’ 9-8 win.
“It is great to get two wins against two division two teams and we are going to continue to get strong,” said Exeter head coach Patrick Hendricks.
The Tribe tried to push the ball into the middle of the Monarch defense as the clock ticked inside a minute of the game. Eventually the ball came to the 10 meter mark outside the goal. From there the Tribe threw up a prayer lob shot.
Weldon was not caught out of position on the shot. Rising up out of the water, Weldon made save with her arms outstretched above her head.
“I’m very proud of the team and the way that they played tonight,” said Weldon.
Weldon finished the game with 10 saves on the night.
“She has grown a lot and when she is playing good, the rest of the team in front of [Weldon] plays good,” said Hendrick.
After a back and forth first half the Monarchs held a slim two goal lead, 5-3 entering the third quarter. In the early going of that quarter, the Monarchs added two quick goals off the arm of Alli Smith to build a four goal lead.
Then both Smith and a Tulare Union player got ejected from the game.
“That was a huge turning point for us,” said Coach Hendricks. “She was having a great game, it was just frustrating and it really changed the temp because our offense was running through [Smith].”
Despite the ejection Smith led the Monarchs with three goals for the night.
Yet, that is where this year’s Monarch team has taken a step further than last year’s. Even when they loss their leading scorer with over a quarter to go, they still compete.
Both Hailey Long and Megan Nickell had goals after Smith’s ejection. Coach Hendricks says that is one of the strengths of his team that they don’t have to rely on one person but have the ability to score from just about anywhere.
“On any given night all six of our girls out there have the ability to put it in the back of the net,” said Coach Hendricks. “That is going to be a huge advantage to us this year that we have the other team pick their poison and we’ll exploit it the other way.”
The road trip continued for the Monarchs last night with a trip up to Reedley to take on the Pirates of which the final happened after press time. It concludes next Tuesday night, Sept. 19, when Exeter plays a new comer to the D-II rankings the Mt. Whitney Pioneers. The Pioneers were the 2016 D-III Valley Champions.