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Back-to-back losses to open the Coast Conference slate and a 3-9 overall mark may not inspire confidence, except maybe in the head coach — Randy Wright.

The College of San Mateo women’s water polo team has taken its lumps playing against some of the top teams in the state, but the Bulldogs may be on the verge of winning seven of their next games.

“I’m looking for what is going to make my team a success as fast as possible,” Wright said. “And if that means a little psychological damage because you get beat, then so be it. I think it’s important to learn to play at a high level.”

Looking to make a splash into the top tier of the Coast Conference, the preseason schedule was brutal. Wright hoped it was enough to speed up the learning curve for his nine freshmen, but when sophomore captain Najelah Najdawi (27 goals for the season) was lost for the game in the third quarter, a slim lead turned into a late deficit.

Down 5-4 with 10 seconds left, CSM earned a 5-meter penalty shot but missed the target.

“I don’t know if we start gripping it tighter, or if we lose a little focus or if we’re in a hurry,” Wright said. “It’s probably a combination of all three, because when the going gets tough, we’re not that accurate.”

The hope is that this loss — and many that came before it — will have CSM ready when it hosts the Coast Conference tournament the first weekend of November.

“Finally, they see the big picture in terms of athletics that actions have obviously reactions,” Wright said. “And the disappointment coming off losing to a team that you probably should have beaten, it does hurt. It sticks with you for a while.”

CRYSTAL CLEAR: Joe Mangan calls his Bulldogs a team of modest talent.

“But it doesn’t preclude us from going out every day and training hard,” the CSM cross country coach said.

The goal is to have his runners peaking three weeks from today at the Coast Conference finals in Toro Park in Salinas, where the coach hopes the Bulldogs advance to the NorCal finals, with some reaching the state final.

The men’s best hope is Mitchell Milligan, a transfer from American River who reached state last track season in the 1,500-meter run.

“I expect him to be among the top runners in our conference and in a position to make state,” Mangan said.

Kelly Claire, out of Notre Dame-Belmont, improved her high school PR at the Crystal Springs course in Belmont by nearly 10 seconds.

“She’s again maybe trying to find herself,” Mangan said.

This is the 40th year of the current course at Crystal Springs — dating back to 1971.

“Hundreds of thousands of kids have crossed that finish line,” Mangan said. “W call it a famous course, and most of the kids that come in there call it a notorious course. It’s not the easiest course, but it’s pure cross country and there is nothing else like it out there.”

ROAD TEST: The Foothill College women’s soccer team may be finding its stride after Tuesday’s 2-0 win at West Valley.

“I thought our girls proved a lot today by winning on the road when our shots weren’t falling,” Foothill coach Owen Flannery said. “Most teams would have quit or argued with each other, but our girls just dug deep and kept fighting.”

The Owls (7-1-2) got a first-half goal from Shuree Irizarry, who received a nice through ball from Erin Bedell before taking a quick shot past the keeper. The insurance goal came late, when Munvir Dhillon took a chance from 40 yards out and beat the keeper.

Canada College won its first six games of the season, but has found it tougher since Coast North play began. The Colts are 1-1-2 in division play, with a 3-0 loss at City College of San Francisco on Friday accounting for their first loss.

E-mail Vytas Mazeika at