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CdM rallies into semifinals

Girls’ Water Polo

Strong fourth quarter helps Sea Kings end another Dos Pueblos streak. They meet Los Al in TOC on Saturday.

January 13, 2012|By Matt Szabo

GOLETA — The first time the Corona del Mar High girls' water polo team played Dos Pueblos this year, the Sea Kings snapped the Chargers' 68-game winning streak.

Another streak was on the line when the teams met Friday night. Dos Pueblos had won the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions three years in a row.

In its home pool, Dos Pueblos wasn't going to go down without a fight.

Turns out, neither was Corona del Mar.

The third-seeded Sea Kings owned the fourth quarter to knock off the Chargers, 7-6, at Dos Pueblos High. CdM (12-1) advances to Saturday's semifinals at Santa Barbara High, where the Sea Kings will face No. 7-seeded Los Alamitos at 12:15 p.m.

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Los Al upset second-seeded Santa Barbara, 10-9, in sudden-death overtime in another TOC quarterfinal.

CdM definitely had to work hard to beat Dos Pueblos after trailing by a goal for much of the game. Princeton-bound CdM senior Diana Murphy, who had a strong game with four exclusions drawn, tied the score at 4 with a strong move just before the third quarter ended.

"Diana's just so strong and so effective at establishing position inside, at putting the ball away, at drawing the double team," CdM Coach Sam Bailey said. "She does so much for us. She plays with so much heart. She's both a physical and emotional leader for us. After she scores or after one of her teammates scores, to look in the pool and see the smile, the twinkle, the sparkle in her eyes is priceless."

Those exclusions Murphy drew at set proved important. In the fourth quarter Dos Pueblos Coach Chris Parrish saw two of his top players, junior Jaime Neushul and sophomore Shannon Cleary, both foul out. Dos Pueblos fans didn't agree with Neushul's third exclusion, called when she shot the ball after being whistled for an offensive foul.

But the Sea Kings were finishing strong. Pippa Saunders scored a backhander from two meters, then Cassidy Papa scored from the left wing.

The Chargers then left Genevieve Weed open in the middle on the counterattack. Bad idea, as the junior buried the shot to put CdM up, 7-4, with 59 seconds in the game.

"In the beginning of the season, when we beat [Dos Pueblos] then, it was good to stop their streak," said Weed, who had two goals, two steals and two assists. "Now it's like reinforcing it. We can be the better team. We just take it one game at a time. It doesn't matter where it is or who it's against, we just go all out."

Papa also scored twice in the game while Murphy, Saunders and Ally McCormick added single goals. Senior goalie Alex Musselman had a strong game with 14 saves, and she also made three steals.

Cleary scored twice to lead Dos Pueblos.

In its opening game at the tournament, CdM topped Edison for the second time this year, 12-5. Papa led all scorers with four goals, and McCormick and Murphy added three goals each. Saunders and Weed also scored, while Weed, Murphy and Morgan Stewart each had a pair of steals.

CdM has not played Los Alamitos this season. But regardless of the opponent, the Sea Kings appear to be tough to beat.

"We knew we had to come out hard and with a lot of intensity, because [Dos Pueblos] would be protecting their home pool," Murphy said. "The fact that we went down in the beginning then rallied back, it was really inspiring. We have a lot of faith and confidence in each other."

matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo

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