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Sailors into SoCal semis

Newport Harbor starts fast, puts away defending champion Dos Pueblos. Another meeting with Laguna Beach on tap.

February 03, 2012|By Matt Szabo

IRVINE — The Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team made a bit of a statement Friday night at Woollett Aquatics Center.

Sure, opposing teams can try to drop off the Sailors' perimeter players and focus on emerging center Elissia Schilling.

But they do so at their own risk.

Newport consistently made Dos Pueblos pay for using such a strategy in the quarterfinals of the Irvine Southern California Championships. The Sailors' collective outside shot was on the mark in a 14-11 victory over the defending tournament champions.

Second-seeded Newport Harbor (19-4) plays sixth-seeded Laguna Beach in a semifinal match at 11 a.m. Saturday, back at Woollett. The Breakers outlasted Los Alamitos, 9-8, in another quarterfinal Friday.

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Dos Pueblos (15-8) , the three-time defending CIF Southern Section Division I champion, is young but still dangerous this year with players like junior Jamie Neushul and senior Kodi Hill. But the Sailors came out of the gates scorching hot.

They built a 4-0 lead in the opening quarter after goals by Schilling, Sophie Leveque, Maddy McLaren and Carly Christian. The Chargers fumbled away opportunities in the first quarter, unable to convert three different power-play chances on a pass off the end line, a shot wide of the cage and a steal by McLaren.

Newport Harbor, which has won eight straight matches, took an 8-4 lead into halftime. Of the eight goals, only one came from set.

"We're really well-balanced, especially when they drop off of [set]," said Peterson, who scored twice and had a team-high four steals. "Some teams may not think we have very strong shooters from the outside, but when they drop, a lot of our players step up. We can shoot from the outside really well."

Newport Harbor started the second half in a similar fashion to the first. Leveque buried a shot from seven meters, then McLaren skipped in another one from the outside. After Christian took Presley Pender's pass and finished a strong drive at the far post, the Sailors had suddenly opened up an 11-4 advantage.

"Our biggest focus was to come out strong in the third quarter," said McLaren, who scored twice and also had a pair of steals. "Not only because we've been up and lost games before, but because we know that Dos Pueblos is a team that has been down and won games before. Neither of those situations are working in our favor, so we tried extra hard to come out [strong] in the third quarter.

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