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Gilchrist calms Barnett

Senior two-meter player scores two late goals to help ease coach in quarterfinal win over Santa Barbara.

February 19, 2010|By Steve Virgen

NEWPORT BEACH — Bill Barnett wasn’t biting his nails or pacing back and forth before his Newport Harbor High girls’ water polo team played Friday, but he appeared anxious.

“How do you feel,” someone asked.

“Nervous,” the legendary coach responded, as the Sailors warmed up for Santa Barbara in a CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinal.

The shaky vibes continued into the game. Barnett didn’t want to sit down. He stood throughout. Turns out, senior Kaleigh Gilchrist would help calm his fears. She scored two goals in a 51-second span with under three minutes to play to lift Newport Harbor past the Dons, 5-3.

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The No. 2-seeded Sailors (24-5) advanced to the semifinals for the ninth straight year in Division I. They’ll face CdM at Irvine High Wednesday at 5 p.m.

“We haven’t played very well, up till this game, but I don’t think we played that well in this game either,” Barnett said. “Our shooting was way off. We had a chance to go up early on to have at least two or three more goals. That’s why I was worried.”

Most would think the coach would be calm before the game. After all, Newport Harbor had beaten Santa Barbara, 12-4, Dec. 30, and, 8-5, Feb. 5. The Sailors knew what to expect. But then again, so did the Dons. They dropped their defenders to clog the middle, paying most of their attention to Gilchrist.

Newport Harbor couldn’t respond early on. It didn’t help that most of its shot fell off the mark, time and time again.

Santa Barbara Coach Mark Walsh said his Dons played their best game of the season. Goalie Maddie Trabuco had a solid game with 10 saves. Charlotte Hendrix led Santa Barbara (18-11) with two goals and Kelsey O’Brien had three assists and three steals.

Colleen McCall had to get creative to offset the Dons’ stellar performance. She found the right touch with 5:50 left in the third quarter to help the Sailors grab their first lead of the game. She scored with a lob shot after taking a pass from goalie Krissy Burger.

But in the fourth quarter, Mackenzy Fowler’s shot found its way into the cage to tie the score, 3-3, with 3:55 remaining.

A minute later, Gilchrist went to work with some help from fellow senior Kate Klippert.

Klippert used her speed to draw attention to her on a counterattack. She then dished to Gilchrist on the weak side. Gilchrist put it away from there with 2:53 left, giving Newport Harbor a 4-3 lead.

Then with 2:02 left, Gilchirst scored another dramatic goal. With three defenders draped on her, she scored with a back-handed shot.

“That was definitely too close for comfort,” Gilchrist said. “I kind of had to redeem myself. I wasn’t having my best game, none of my balls were going in. I definitely wanted to redeem myself.”

Gilchrist doesn’t expect things to get any easier against Back Bay rival CdM. Newport Harbor beat the Sea Kings, 9-3, in the Battle of the Bay Dec. 18.

The Sailors have faced CdM just once in the playoffs, in 2008, when Newport Harbor won the Division I title with a 6-5 win.


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