High-Water Mark at Harvard-Westlake
Girls’ water polo may still be in its infancy, but don’t tell the teams from Harvard-Westlake and Louisville highs.
The Wolverines, ranked No. 2, and the Royals, rated No. 3 in Southern Section Division II, staged a high-quality, crowd-pleasing Mission League battle Friday at Harvard-Westlake that showed how far girls’ water polo has come since being introduced by the section last year.
Harvard-Westlake won, 11-8, tightening its grip on the Mission League lead. More importantly, the Wolverines helped use the stage of Division II’s best regular-season game to display the talents of players from both teams.
“The quality is much improved over last year,” Harvard-Westlake Coach Rich Corso said. “Some of the girls who were seniors last year came back to watch and they were shocked.
“We’re a much better team, Louisville is a much better team, the sport is better across the board.”
So much was evident on the first goal of the game, a backhanded jaialai shot to the right post by Harvard-Westlake’s Stephanie Dashiell in the first quarter.
Eyebrows were raised when Wolverine sophomore Jeanine Jackson, who had six goals, and Dashiell fired bullets in for goals from mid-pool to give the Wolverines (8-0, 5-0 in league play) a 4-0 lead after the first quarter.
Katie Pyle, Kim Feig and Allison Swicker scored for Louisville in the first 1:48 of the second quarter to bring the Royals (17-2, 3-2) to within 4-3 and serve notice that they would not fold.
Pyle had three goals for Louisville.
“There’s some firepower out there,” Corso said. “These girls aren’t afraid to put it up.”
In the end, as it was in the beginning, it was the Wolverine defense that won the game.
Harvard-Westlake had 22 steals, five in the fourth quarter and 11 in the first, when Louisville had only one shot.
“We knew we needed to go out there and jump on them,” Corso said. “Especially when your in your own house.”
Louisville was riding the momentum of winning the Dos Pueblos tournament last week against six of the top 10 teams in Division II.
Top-ranked Santa Barbara and Harvard-Westlake, the only team to beat the Royals, did not participate.
“They are our nemesis, I guess,” said Stacy Smith, Louisville coach.