Pippa is clutch for Sea Kings

Junior, who scored game-winning goal in Holiday Cup semifinal, can do it all for CdM.

January 06, 2011|By Matt Szabo,
(Scott Smeltzer…)

The Corona del Mar High girls' water polo team gets out of the pool during the fall season.

From time to time, the Sea Kings play dodgeball. It's a good team bonding exercise and brings out the competitiveness in some of the players.

Run for cover if Pippa Saunders has the ball.

"It's funny, you always have certain athletes out there who sort of love to step up in certain moments," CdM Coach Sam Bailey said. "Pippa's one of those athletes. She's fearless, as far as going for a loose ball, moving out of the way, very passionate about stepping up and trying to make the hit. You definitely see Pippa's leadership, her competitiveness."

The first-year coach never questions Saunders' leadership. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week has shown it time after time for the Sea Kings.

One of the more recent examples came in last weekend's Holiday Cup. Saunders scored the game-winning goal in overtime Saturday as CdM topped Laguna Beach in the semifinals, 8-7. Saunders had a fine game in the title match loss to Dos Pueblos as well, with a goal, two assists and two steals.


She has been here before. The junior has been a contributor on varsity since she was a freshman, often the first substitute off the bench on a team that advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I title match.

"It was kind of intimidating," Saunders said of playing with teammates like Heather Van Hiel (now at UCLA), Victoria Kennedy and Kate Baldoni (Stanford) and Elise Molnar (Harvard). "We had some really insanely good seniors, and upperclassmen in general. They made me work hard. All the girls on the team were so good. You have to prove to yourself, 'I deserve to be here.' "

At times, it seemed like so much work. The team trains up to five hours a day during the season.

Saunders is more used to it now, even as she's kept busy by Advanced Placement biology and Spanish, as well as a tough trigonometry class. She excels, carrying a 4.15 grade-point average.

As a freshman, though?

"I remember freshman year I would be so tired," Saunders said. "I'd fall asleep in all my classes. But you get used to it."

Now Saunders is the veteran for Corona del Mar (5-4), which plays host to Foothill Friday. She started out playing soccer when she was little — including a stint as a Daily Pilot Cup-winning goalie for Andersen Elementary — but has now been playing water polo for more than seven years. The last three, she's been on the USA Water Polo Youth National Team.

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