The Paso Robles High School girls water polo team had one last play against Redlands East Valley to extend an already historic playoff run.
With one second left in a semifinal game of the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 playoffs Wednesday, Paso Robles coach Grant East dialed up a set play that he had been running since he was in high school.
From the middle of the pool at Arroyo Grande High School, Paso Robles senior Marina Smeltzer launched a pass disguised as a shot toward sophomore Aubrey Pasky, who tipped the ball at the top-right corner of the net. But the ball glanced off the frame as the buzzer sounded, and Redlands East Valley held on for an 8-7 win.
“This game was just... I don’t even know where to start,” Paso Robles senior captain Miranda Pasky said. “That was so intense.”
Redlands East Valley jumped out to a 5-1 lead early in the second quarter and led 7-4 at halftime.
“We were a little skittish in the beginning, but once we got going we had every opportunity to win that game,” East said. “The looks were all there, that’s why I can’t be too upset at that.”
The Paso Robles defense started to figure things out in the second half. Pasky scored to make it 7-5 after three quarters, but Paso Robles missed a chance to make it 7-6 heading into the final quarter after failing to convert following a Redlands East Valley exclusion, a theme for the match.
“What killed us was our six-on-five offense. We just dropped a few crucial passes,” East said.
Redlands East Valley scored to start the fourth quarter to take an 8-5 lead, but a goal by sophomore Mackenzie Raymond with one minute left and a goal by Smeltzer with 30 seconds left made it 8-7. Redlands East Valley killed the clock and left just one second for Paso Robles to attempt the miracle shot.
Even with the loss, Paso Robles (18-11) — the third-place finisher from the PAC 6 — made history. No Bearcats girls water polo team had won a game in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs until this season. This year, the team won two.
“It was the best season we have ever had in girls water polo at Paso,” East said. “The loss is going to sting a little bit, but it’s nothing to be too upset about.”
Smeltzer had three goals in the game for Paso Robles, and Pasky had two goals.
“We all wanted to win this game so bad, so going into this we all put our heart and soul into that game, and we did the best we could. And it’s just not enough sometimes,” Pasky said.
Both Smeltzer and Pasky will pass the baton to their younger sisters — freshman Tatiana Smeltzer and sophomore Aubrey Pasky — in what appears to be an up-and-coming program. Tatiana Smeltzer scored in the second quarter against Redlands East Valley and had a team-high 11 goals in the playoffs.
Miranda Pasky was fighting off tears after the match talking about her journey over the past four seasons and the future of the program.
“Marina, the other captain, and I have been working for four years to get to this moment. And for it to actually happen,” Miranda Pasky said, “it’s almost relieving and amazing that we can make it this far and set a new bar for the new teams coming in.”