Sobrato a perennial force in the pool

Solid and steady. That’s one way to describe the Sobrato High girls water polo program. The Bulldogs are having another fine season as they prepare for the upcoming Blossom Valley League Championships and probable appearance in the Central Coast Section playoffs. Sobrato is coming off a great showing in the Santa Teresa Oktoberfest Tournament on Oct. 12 and 13, defeating Irvington of Fremont 8-7 in the championship match. 

The Bulldogs were up 8-3 after three periods before Irvington scored four goals in the first three minutes of the fourth to make it a one-goal game. Sobrato, which had two laughers in beating Milpitas 19-1 and Burlingame 15-2 on the first day of tournament play, received five goals from Helena Batey and one each from Aziza Calvert, Molly Foster and Sara Magana in the title match. 

Even though the Bulldogs graduated several key players from a team that reached the CCS playoff semifinals last year, they’re still a pretty formidable group. 

“We’re building on the fly, but by no means are we falling down,” Bulldogs coach Scott Jackson said. “We’re a good program that lost several seniors from last year, which is how it goes.”

Sobrato entered the week at 10-5 overall and finished 4-1 in Blossom Valley League Mount Hamilton Division play, with its only loss coming to Leland, a perennial CCS power and two-time defending CCS Division I playoff champion. 

“Leland is as good as it gets,” Jackson said. “There is a group of teams above us like the Lelands and some private schools, and we’re kind of on the next cut below.”

For the Bulldogs, everything starts with Batey, a senior utility and captain who as a junior last year earned CCS Second Team honors and the BVAL Junior of the Year award. Batey came back better than ever, a college player in the making.  

“She obviously has a lot of credentials,” Jackson said. “She’s got long arms, she’s strong and is a smart player.”

Batey is ambidextrous, able to shoot and pass effectively with both hands. Last season, Batey pulled off an amazing performance in one particular match, scoring two penalty shot goals—one with her right hand and the other with her left. Entering the Santa Teresa Tournament, Batey had scored 44 goals and Kassidy Prim 16. A senior utility, Prim is a left-handed shooter who plays excellent defense. Prim didn’t start playing water polo until her sophomore season, making her accomplishments in the pool all the more remarkable. 

“She had to learn the game quick and did just that,” Jackson said. “She has a terrific attitude and was primed for a good year and is having a good one.”

Calvert, a junior utility and three-year varsity starter, is one of the team’s leaders and entered the tournament with 20 goals. A fast swimmer and possessing a laser shot, Calvert continues to improve and be an impact player. 

“I called her found money because she fell out of the sky when I took over as coach (three years ago),” Jackson said. “When I came on, I didn’t expect to have a freshman who could play the way she did.”

Junior Molly Foster has elevated her game to not only support the rest of the team, but also take a more active role in searching for her shot, being aggressive and making plays. Kayla Wensmann, a senior utility and captain, knows how to put herself in the right position to make a pass or unleash a high percentage shot. She also knows how to keep the team loose in tense situations. 

“She’s the one that brings light-hearted moments to the team,” Jackson said. “We’ll be in the huddle and all of a sudden she’ll make a joke to relieve the pressure. Her role is to be the glue and fill in where needed.”

Wensmann said the team has strong talent, but what separates it from other squads is its heads-up play and maximizing what they have. 

“We may not have the fastest swimming team, but the speed we do have, we use to our advantage,” she said. “And even though we’re not the strongest team, we’re still pretty formidable and able to play physical. … My objective is to figure out where the ball needs to go to get us going.”

Wensmann relishes being able to crack a joke or make a comment that immediately puts her teammates at ease if they are feeling a bit frantic from the moment. 

“I’m normally a really sarcastic person, so that tends to help,” she said. 

The Bulldogs are primed for a strong postseason run, first starting in BVALs and then likely onto CCS. 

“Now that our regular season is over, we’re working on more advanced drills and cross drives and trying to figure out what works best to get us as far as possible,” Wensmann said. 

Whatever happens this season, one thing is certain: Sobrato’s program looks as strong as ever. The 32 girls on the rosters of the junior varsity and varsity teams represent a huge turnout, which bodes well for the present and future.

“On our JV team we had a huge influx of people who are excited to play water polo, and almost all of them are first-year players,” Jackson said. “So they’re learning brick by brick, and if we can keep them playing together, that will really be exciting.”

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