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Sailors again settle for second

Girls’ Water Polo

Newport Harbor still has never won TOC title, as host Santa Barbara uses big third quarter to take crown.

January 12, 2013|By Matt Szabo | By Matt Szabo

SANTA BARBARA — It is really an unexplainable statistic.

The Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team has never won the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions title.

Newport assistant coach Brian Melstrom questioned Santa Barbara Coach Mark Walsh about it, so the two men looked at the tournament program. And indeed, they discovered that the Sailors had finished in second place seven times since 2003.

"I said, 'I think [Coach Bill] Barnett likes to lose the last game and maybe make the girls hungry for the rest of the way,' " Walsh said. "And [Melstrom] is like, 'No, I don't think that's it.' "

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The Sailors did not come to Santa Barbara this weekend to get to the championship match and lose. But Walsh and his host Dons made sure Newport again got second billing.

Make it eight times as runner-up. Santa Barbara separated itself in the third quarter and won the championship match, 7-5, on Saturday afternoon at Santa Barbara High.

Cal-bound goalie Maddie Trabucco of Santa Barbara was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and was joined on the all-tournament team by her UCLA-bound teammate Kelsey O'Brien. Newport Harbor had both of its co-captains, UCLA-bound center Elissia Schilling and UC Santa Barbara-bound Carly Christian, make the all-tournament team.

So how can the Sailors (11-4) explain finishing second so many times in Santa Barbara, including three of the past four years? Perhaps there is no explanation.

"We didn't try to lose," said Schilling, an all-tournament team selection for the second straight year. "I don't know. All the time [we're playing to win]. I don't really know how that all works out. I'd rather be winning in the second part of our season. I mean, this is a huge tournament. A lot of people say that this is the hardest tournament out of the three.

"Getting second in this really will boost our confidence going into the Irvine tournament, which leads right into CIF. That's when our team, as a whole, wants to be playing our best water polo."

The Sailors were up, 3-2, at halftime in the title match. All three goals were scored by Christian, two on six-on-five advantages.

But the third quarter was Newport Harbor's undoing. The Sailors were outscored, 5-2, in the quarter.

"We had a hard time communicating, whether to stay [in a] drop [defense], or go press," Schilling said. "That led to about three or four goals, I think, on outside shots. We just can't let that happen next time."

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