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Girls' Water Polo Dream Team: McLaren helped Sailors to top

Senior defender, the Newport-Mesa Player of the Year, was a catalyst on team that captured Newport Harbor's fifth CIF Southern Section crown.

April 11, 2012|By Matt Szabo
  • Newport Harbor High senior Maddy McLaren is the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Player of the Year for girls' water polo.
Newport Harbor High senior Maddy McLaren is the Daily… (STEVEN GEORGES )

Maddy McLaren is super-competitive in just about everything she does.

More than just a defender for the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team, the senior was the Sailors' leading scorer for the second straight year. More than just a player in the water, she acted as a coach at times, verbally telling her teammates what to do in certain game situations.

Not every situation was favorable for the Sailors. Not every person outside of the team believed. At the start of the regular season Newport Harbor was ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 coaches' poll — respectable, but low for the perennial powerhouse.

"The rankings totally do affect how you think about all the teams," McLaren said. "Ultimately, I wanted to win and I had that determination going. Realistically, I was confident that we were going to do the best that we could do, but I wasn't sure if that was going to be winning CIF."

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During the regular season the Sailors dealt with more adversity. They played rival Corona del Mar four times and lost the first three meetings, squandering a halftime lead each time. Even after the Sailors broke through to win the Irvine Southern California Championships, beating CdM in the final, the Sea Kings were awarded the top overall seed in the playoffs.

The teams met again for all the marbles on Feb. 25 at Irvine's Woollett Aquatics Center. Despite coming into the CIF championship match with a 15-game winning streak, most people seemed to consider the Sailors a slight underdog.

McLaren, the Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year, kept working. Few could match that work ethic. In the final quarter of the season, it all paid off.

She scored twice in that fourth quarter, helping the Sailors engineer a thrilling 8-7 comeback victory over CdM for the Division 1 title. The No. 5 was again relevant at the end of the season, but this time it was because Newport Harbor (27-5) had won its fifth CIF girls' water polo championship.

The UCLA-bound redhead, Newport Harbor's lone repeat Dream Team selection, reveled in the victory. As always, she was thoughtful. In the days after the victory, she talked about experiencing a little bit of everything. In her four-year high school career, Newport Harbor lost in the CIF semifinals, lost in the finals, lost in the quarterfinals and finally won the title.

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