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Garces water polo teams ready for regional playoffs

The Garces girls water polo team is in uncharted waters, and seemingly all are on board.

The Rams, fresh off the Central Section Division II championship win over Porterville-Monache on Saturday, will be back at Salvucci Aquatics Center on Tuesday in the opening round of the CIF Northern California D-III regional playoffs as the No. 3 seed hosting No. 6 Tracy-Kimball at 4 p.m..

“They love playing and they realize that every time we play, every week we play, we learn something new each time,” Garces coach Jason Gall said. “They are excited to see if they can conquer that next challenge.”

The high of playing – and winning – a section championship can take a mental toll on a team, especially one that has never played in a regional playoff like the Rams.

But Gall and players like junior Isabella Garcia seem calmed for the storm of the unknown of playing teams like Kimball.

“It keeps us excited and nervous and on our toes,” Garcia said. “It keeps us ready for anything.”

What that “anything” looks like is the possibility of playing three games in a span of five days knowing that a state regional title is in within their grasps.

“It’s awesome. It’s so thrilling to think that from a week you can go off the high off Valley and straight into state,” Garcia said. “We are trying to keep carrying on that excitement in every game that we play.”

There is a bit of a wrench in the system too for Garces. 

The boys are also in the NorCal regionals with a D-II matchup as the 5-seed against No. 4 Granite Bay at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at American River College.

Gall will travel with the boys on Tuesday while assistant coaches Joe Schechter and Spencer Kerwin will coach the girls at home.

Gall said once those two were able to successfully coach the girls in tournament play back in September, he knows he is leaving the girls in good hands.

“I am very confident,” Gall said. 

After a section D-I semifinals lost to Clovis West last week, the boys had to take a wait and see approach to regional berth, but Gall also said his confidence is high.

Garces beat Sacramento-Jesuit twice in tournament play this season. Jesuit beat Granite Bay 13-7 for the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I title on Saturday.

With both teams in the playoffs and the likelihood that both will be at opposite sites again on Thursday in the semifinals with wins on Tuesday, there is the chance to have them together for the regional championships Saturday at Independence High School in San Jose.

And that’s the excitement that is fueling this big week ahead for both Garces water polo teams.

“I’d love to have both programs to compete for the state championships on Saturday,” Gall said. “It’s a realistic opportunity for both teams.”

CIF Northern California Regional Division III Girls Water Polo First Round

No. 6 Tracy-Kimball at No. 3 Garces

4 p.m. at Salvucci Aquatics Center

Cost: $9 for adults, $5 for seniors/student w/ ID, children

CIF Northern California Regional Division II Boys Water Polo First Round

No. 5 Garces vs. No. 4 Granite Bay

2 p.m. at American River College in Sacramento 

Cost: $9 for adults, $5 for seniors/student w/ ID, children

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