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Revenge of the Sailors

Girls' Water Polo

Newport Harbor shines defensively, topping rival Corona del Mar for first time this season and winning SoCal title.

February 04, 2012|By Matt Szabo
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

IRVINE — It has become almost a tradition for the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team every year.

Finish the Irvine Southern California Championships tournament, then sprint off the pool deck to prepare for the winter formal dance that night.

Few times have the Sailors been as happy making that exit as they were Saturday. It was easy to understand why their smiles were so big as they prepared to head over to Knott's Berry Farm.

Montezuma wasn't the only one who got revenge on this day.

Newport Harbor used a strong defensive effort to top rival Corona del Mar, 6-5, in the championship match at Woollett Aquatics Center. It was the Sailors' first victory against their rivals in four meetings this season.

All-tournament team selections Maddy McLaren, Avery Peterson and Carly Christian consistently made plays for the Sailors (21-4), who have now won 10 straight since losing to CdM in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions final Jan. 14. But it was a team effort. The Newport faithful couldn't exhale until goalie Cleo Harrington grabbed a lob shot from the left by CdM's Cassidy Papa at the final buzzer.

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Seniors Diana Murphy and Pippa Saunders were all-tournament team selections for CdM. Goalie Alex Musselman, who made 12 saves in the final, earned the tournament's Outstanding Goalie award.

The Sailors still finally found a way to get the job done. Even Coach Bill Barnett had to smile as he watched them scamper off the deck.

"I was very proud of the girls, because they have that stupid dance tonight," he said with a laugh. "I think their focus to play as well as they did, considering their mind at times I'm sure was at the dance, I think it says a lot about their maturity."

Each team had impressive semifinal victories Saturday morning. CdM took out Foothill, 11-8, in the teams' first meeting of the season. Newport Harbor beat Laguna Beach, 7-4, to improve to 3-0 this year against the Breakers.

Once the rivals were in the final, Newport Harbor took control, handing CdM (23-2) just its second loss of the season and snapping the Sea Kings' 18-game winning streak.

The Sailors took a 3-2 halftime lead behind two goals from Christian and one from junior Allyson Hall, a nice backhand strike after a give-and-go with Christian.

Leading CdM at halftime was nothing new for the Sailors. They had done so in each of the teams' first three meetings, losing each time. This game was different.

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