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Sea Kings move on to title game

Girls' Water Polo

Warwick stuns Foothill in overtime to help CdM edge Knights and advance to Division I final against rival Newport Harbor.

February 22, 2012|By Matt Szabo
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

IRVINE — You can excuse Corona del Mar High senior Pippa Saunders if she's been a little emotional lately.

Last weekend, she stood there crying on the Dos Pueblos High pool deck as her CdM girls' water polo team nearly lost in regulation before outlasting the host Chargers in overtime.

On Wednesday night at Woollett Aquatics Center, she swam as fast as she could toward sophomore Avery Warwick in the second overtime period. She gave Warwick a big hug, before splashing water on the sophomore.

Think Saunders wanted to get back to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match, the game she played in as a freshman?

The effort of Saunders and CdM's three other seniors — center Diana Murphy, defender Victoria Pierotti and goalie Alex Musselman — is a big reason why the Sea Kings are returning for the first time in three years.

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Warwick still scored the biggest goal of the night, and her young career. Foothill left her open in that second overtime period.

She made the Knights pay, big time.

Warwick's blast from six meters with 1:55 left was the game-winner as CdM outlasted Foothill, 10-9, to get back to the title match. Top-seeded CdM (28-2) will play No. 2-seeded rival Newport Harbor in the title match at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, back at Woollett.

"I just had faith in myself, and I knew my teammates believed in me," Warwick said of her 10th goal of the season. "I knew I could do it. I just got up on my legs and put it away."

Warwick played the whole fourth quarter and all of overtime after junior Genevieve Weed (a goal, two assists, two steals) fouled out. Saunders also played the entire second half with two exclusions, but made defensive plays late for CdM with a pair of field blocks.

She said Coach Sam Bailey and assistant Brian Mericle give her a basketball analogy whenever she is in foul trouble. They tell her that Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is sometimes in foul trouble, too.

"They just tell me you have to play like Kobe, through foul trouble," Saunders said. "I have to stay in for the team and play smart."

The seniors all stepped up. Murphy scored a game-high five goals for CdM. Pierotti, who had two assists, also played smart defense in the second half with Weed and Saunders in foul trouble. Musselman made 12 saves, including the final one at the end of overtime after a spectacular long shot from Foothill freshman Cana Manzella nearly found its mark.

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