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Newport Harbor back in title game

Cif Southern Section Division I Girls' Water Polo Semifinals

February 25, 2006|By Dave Thorpe

IRVINE ? Newport Harbor High's Elizabeth Layton was one busy goalkeeper Friday night in the CIF Southern Section Division I girls' water polo semifinals against Santa Margarita.

Layton faced 32 shots against the trigger-happy Eagles, who had 16 in each half ? mostly from the outside. The Sailors only took 15 shots, but most were from closer range and they converted almost half in their 7-3 win at Heritage Park.

The victory catapults Newport Harbor (26-4) to the Division I championship game Tuesday night at Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach against Montebello, which shocked defending champion Foothill, 8-7, in the other semifinal. Newport Harbor defeated Montebello, 10-7, on Jan. 5, and 6-4, on Feb. 4.

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Friday night marked the fourth showdown this season between No. 1-seeded Newport Harbor and No. 4 Santa Margarita (21-9), so there was no lack of familiarity between the teams. The Sailors had taken two of three from the Eagles going into the game.

Santa Margarita came out firing and never stopped. But the Sailors did such a good job converging on Santa Margarita star Darby Anderson at two meters that most of the Eagles' shots came from the outside. All of Santa Margarita's goals ? two courtesy of Trudy Chancellor ? were from outside shots. But many more shots sailed wide, hit the post or crossbar, or were blocked by Layton ? who finished with 12 saves for the Sailors.

"Stopping their two-meter play was the key," Layton said. "They have one of the best two-meter players, Darby Anderson, and once we stopped her, I knew I just had to watch for shots from the outside."

The Newport Harbor defense, led by Marisa Cottam and Katie Kepner, held Santa Margarita scoreless on the power play. The Eagles were 0 for 5 with the man advantage.

"This is the fourth time we played them, and we watched them on film," Layton said. "We knew what they'd do every time."

The Sailors took a 5-2 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter when Leah Robertson scored a power play goal from up top. Robertson's shot hit off Eagle goalkeeper Stephanie Peckham's fingers and caromed into the net.

Santa Margarita needed to score the next goal if it wanted to stay in the game, so the team went to its go-to girl at two meters. Anderson was finally able to receive a pass at two meters and get a shot off, but Layton was there to make the first of three consecutive saves that allowed the Sailors to keep a comfortable lead.

Layton also made an arm save on a driving shot by Kacey Anderson and a save on a backhand at two meters from Darby Anderson, who escaped a double team to get the shot off.

Having weathered the storm, Robertson put the game out of reach with a backhand goal from two meters while going under the surface of the water with 6:26 left in the game to give the Sailors a 6-2 lead.

Kally Lucas scored a game-high four goals for the Sailors, including three in the first half. Her goal from two meters gave Newport Harbor a 4-1 lead going into halftime. She added the Sailors' last goal of the game on a backhand shot from two meters.

"This feels great, this was our main goal this year, to get back to the finals," Lucas said. "We're ready."

"We've been working for this all season," Layton said. "We've worked so hard and come so far. We're ready to get that ring."

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