Water polo Division II championship: Tigers fall in title game

Tokay goalie Alanna Stoops defends during their Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game against Rio Americano in Lodi Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

Accomplishments: Alanna Stoops is living the life of a high school student-athlete who plays in three sports.

Last week, the Tokay High girls water polo player made a big splash in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game against Rio Americano on Nov. 10. Stoops, a junior goalie, had 15 saves against the Raiders.

“I was just thinking throughout the whole game to not blow it out of proportion,” said Stoops of the Tigers’ first-ever trip to the section title game. “That helped me keep my cool and not get too scared.”

Most of the shots on goal Stoops faced led to her expanding her arms, if not jumping as high as she could to the point she looked like she was over the cage.

“A lot of them were within my arm’s span,” said Stoops, who has 176 saves this season. “A lot of them I had to jump and lunge for. I didn’t really think about it. Defense leads to offense; you can get fastbreaks and counters. You want to put points on the board.”

Despite the loss in the title game, Stoops and the Tigers advance to the CIF State NorCal Water Polo Championships. Tokay is the No. 8 seed in D-II, and will play No. 1 San Ramon Valley of Danville at noon on Friday. That game, as will all four of the first-round games, will be played at Clovis North High.

“Every time we take one more step, I’m just in awe,” said Stoops of the Tigers’ season. “I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. I feel, as a whole, we can reflect on it when it’s all over. I’m really proud of how we are as a team.”

Rio Americano, out of Sacramento, expanded its 5-4 lead after three periods for a 9-5 win over No. 2 seed Tokay to win back-to-back section titles. Rio Americano, which was No. 1 in this year’s playoffs, beat Bella Vista of Fair Oaks last year.

Earlier this week, Stoops was one of four Tokay players who made the all-section D-II team, placed on the honorable mention list. Tiger teammate Nicole Iturraran was named the division’s MVP. The Tigers’ Lizzy Macfarlane was placed on the first team, and Hannah Ortiz on the second team.

To reach the section title game, Tokay edged Del Oro 7-3 in the semifinal game on Nov. 7. Stoops had 11 saves in that contest.

Stoops started playing water polo her freshman year at Tokay High.

“I grew up swimming in a pool,” Stoops said. “I thought ‘Oh, that sounds cool.’ So I just tried out.”

Stoops was used as one of the field players as a freshman. But then she made the switch to playing goalie as a sophomore. She told Tokay coach Courtney Porter that she would be fine if she’s used as a back-up goalie. But the position grew on her.

“He allowed me to practice with the goalie at the time,” said Stoops of working with last year’s goalie in Jill Wagner, who graduated last spring. “I just like being goalie in the cage; throwing the ball and stopping shots. That’s where I like to be.”

An indoor sport awaits Stoops once the Tigers’ season is over. She will be trying out for the Tokay High girls basketball team. She played on the school’s frosh-soph team last winter.

Next spring, Stoops returns to the swimming pool. This time as a member on the Tokay High girls swim team.

“I really enjoy it,” said Stoops of playing three sports. “It keeps me busy and it keeps me going. I’ve always liked being outdoors.”

Contact reporter Mike Bush at mikeb@lodinews.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.

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