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Girls' Water Polo: Locals go for JO gold

CdM graduates Saunders, Murphy, Pierotti and Musselman, along with Newport graduate McLaren, bring their talents to top-seeded SOCAL 18U squad.

August 01, 2012|By Matt Szabo
  • Corona del Mar High graduates now playing for the SOCAL "Black" water polo team in the Junior Olympics, are from left, Victoria Pierotti, Alex Musselman, Pippa Saunders and Diana Murphy.
Corona del Mar High graduates now playing for the SOCAL… (STEVEN GEORGES )

The last two selections for Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year in girls' water polo were Corona del Mar High graduate Alex Musselman and Newport Harbor High graduate Maddy McLaren.

Musselman and McLaren will be teammates at UCLA. But first, this summer they are playing on a different sort of dream team.

The reality is that the SOCAL Black team that features Musselman, McLaren and CdM graduates Pippa Saunders (Cal), Diana Murphy (Princeton) and Victoria Pierotti (Brown) is a strong contender for the ultimate prize among junior club water polo teams.

SOCAL Black is the top-seeded 18-and-under girls' team for the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, which begin Thursday in the Bay Area and continue through Sunday.

Newport Harbor and CdM met for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title in February, with the Sailors storming back in the fourth quarter for an 8-7 victory. And, while the participants in that game likely won't soon forget it, this is a new team.

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"I love it," said McLaren, a defender who recently helped the U.S. Youth National team finish third in an international tournament in Hungary. "It's so cool how we could be such rivals at the end of the season last year, and go into the next season and be teammates. We have no bitterness toward each other. We went straight from that huge rivalry and that huge last game to being teammates again. It kind of shows that everything is left in the water. That season has passed, and we're on to something new. I love playing for SOCAL. It's one of my favorite teams I've ever played on."

It's easy to see why. SOCAL could be defined as a verifiable Orange County all-star team. The squad also features players like Foothill graduates McKenna Mitchell (UC Irvine) and Jessie Porter (UC Santa Barbara), as well as Los Alamitos graduate Rachel Fattal (UCLA) and rising Foothill sophomore Cana Manzella.

To say the team is deep might be an understatement. Starters include Saunders, McLaren, Fattal, Porter, Mitchell and Manzella, with Musselman in goal.

Since CdM and Newport Harbor keep their high school players together year-round, program graduates often attach themselves to other club teams before playing in college. Last summer Newport graduate Catherine Carpenter, now at Stanford, played for SOCAL. Newport graduate Sarah Wilkey played in goal and won a gold medal with Huntington Beach Water Polo Club.

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