Miners fall just short of title vs. Tooele
Tooele may have walked away with the 3A state water polo title this year by defeating Park City 14-11 in the championship game, but it was no leisurely swim in the lap pool.
Class 3A water polo showed why it is considered the most competitive division in high school competition by putting on one of the most exciting state tournaments in recent years.
Throughout the competition, teams won and lost by a mere goal or two, rather than the blowouts that are common in 4A and 5A battles.
In the championship game, the Miners managed to remain even with Tooele. Driver Brent Weldon scored five goals and Briggs Lyman and Austin Archibald each contributed a goal mid-game to keep the Miners close. Then, in the third quarter, Randy Pankow was ejected from the game for roughness. With the Miners minus one player, the Buffaloes were able to pull ahead and capitalize on the mismatch.
In the final two minutes of the game, the Miners left a man open to force Tooele to shoot quickly and give the ball back to the Miners. The lack of defensive pressure allowed the Buffaloes to score three quick goals, for a total of four goals in the final quarter, giving the Buffaloes the 14-11 victory.
"It was a disappointing loss and they played well," said Miners head water polo coach Larry Jackson. "It was a good game."
Tyler Pool and Pankow also scored for the Miners.
Despite the loss, Jackson was pleased by the transformation of the boys’ squad over the past year. Although the Miners were far from a perfect record, most games were lost to 5A powerhouses by only one goal or two. In the state tournament, Park City went 4-2. Jackson says that the difference is teamwork.
"Everyone was contributing something," Jackson said. "It was a very well-rounded team."
This was the first year the club sport split into 3A, 4A and 5A designations. Formerly a two-division organization, the teams decided to make the change to encourage the Utah High School Activities Association to accept them as a high school-sanctioned sport in the near future. The change also encourages more schools to form a team that might have previously been scared of the larger, established teams that win every year.
"I think it will help the sport grow in Utah," Jackson said. "New, smaller schools get scared by the big teams."
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