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Girls' Water Polo: Newport Harbor stuns Santa Barbara, sets up Battle of the Bay final

Sailors control game and beat top-seeded Dons, 8-5, will play against CdM on Saturday at Woollett.

February 20, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • Newport Harbor High goalie Cleo Harrington blocks a shot for one of her 13 saves against Santa Barbara.
Newport Harbor High goalie Cleo Harrington blocks a shot… (KEVIN CHANG | Daily…)

IRVINE — Playing against Santa Barbara and its "drop" defense for the fourth time this year was a daunting task for the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team.

The first three times didn't go so great. And the senior-laden Dons also beat Newport Harbor in at least three tournaments before the season began.

"We've never [beaten] them," Newport Harbor junior goalie Cleo Harrington said. "Summer, fall, winter."

You can drop those games off of the radar. None of them really matter anymore.

The Sailors saved their best performance for last.

As a result, they are one game away from defending their CIF Southern Section Division 1 title.

No. 4-seeded Newport Harbor blitzed top-seeded Santa Barbara with four first-quarter goals Wednesday night at Woollett Aquatics Center. The Sailors were on their way to an 8-5 upset victory, returning to the Division 1 title match Saturday night at Woollett.

A familiar opponent awaits. It's Back Bay rival Corona del Mar, which upset Foothill, 10-9 in overtime, in another semifinal match Wednesday night. The teams are meeting again with the CIF title on the line.

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Coach Bill Barnett said he liked the way his team shut down the counterattack of the Dons (25-5), who had a 19-match winning streak snapped. And Newport Harbor also limited Santa Barbara to a one-for-six performance on the power play.

The Sailors showed they meant business in the opening quarter. First senior Avery Peterson scored on a pass from senior Carolyn Smith. Santa Barbara had a power-play chance, but sophomore Rachel Whitelegge stole a pass.

On the other end, Sailors senior co-captain Carly Christian drew an exclusion. The goal came from center, as the other senior co-captain, Elissia Schilling, redirected a pass from Smith.

Whitelegge scored again from the outside, and suddenly it was a 3-0 edge with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter. Newport Harbor had already matched its goal total from the previous game the teams played, a 5-3 Santa Barbara win in the semifinals of the Irvine Southern California Championships on Feb. 2.

Junior Betsy Hendrix finally got the Dons on the board after scoring bar-down from five meters. But there was Whitelegge again, scoring on an outside lob to bring the Sailors to a 4-1 advantage.

Santa Barbara never got closer than two goals the rest of the game.

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