Newport Harbor decisively proved it was the best team at the Newport Harbor-Corona del Mar girls’ water polo tournament Saturday, defeating Santa Barbara, 9-1, in the championship game at Newport Harbor High.
Whether the third-ranked Sailors deserve a lift in the county poll isn’t so clear.
Newport Harbor (9-1) defeated top-ranked Foothill and sixth-ranked Santa Margarita in pool-play games Friday, but both teams had key players in Montreal with the U.S. youth team competing in the North American Junior Championships.
Foothill was missing its top two scorers, sophomores Gabbie Domanic and Brittany Hayes, and Santa Margarita was without two of its best players, sophomore Erika Figge and junior Kristine Kunkel.
Capistrano Valley, the second-ranked team in the county, didn’t have sophomore goalkeeper Meridith McColl in its semifinal loss to Santa Barbara.
“I can understand why Foothill should still be No. 1,” said Newport Harbor junior Katherine Belden, who scored two goals against Santa Barbara. “But I think we proved our defense is the best.”
Jenna Booth, who scored three goals against Santa Barbara, thought the Sailors played well enough to show they belong among the best.
“Even though [Foothill and Santa Margarita] weren’t at full strength, I think we showed we can play with anybody,” Booth said. “This is the best defense we’ve played in a long time.”
Santa Barbara had its best players in the water, but that didn’t stop Newport Harbor from building a three-goal lead in the first five minutes. After Booth scored in the opening minute, Paige Lansing scored on consecutive counterattacks to give the Sailors a 3-0 lead with 2 minutes 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
Belden scored on a four-meter penalty shot on Newport Harbor’s opening possession of the second quarter, increasing the lead to 5-1. After Booth scored her second goal early in the third quarter, Belden gave the Sailors a 7-1 lead with a nice backhand shot from two meters.
“That’s just something I picked up while playing age-group ball,” Belden said.
Jessica Gray followed with an impressive move of her own, emerging from the water with her back to the goal, spinning and, in the same motion, lobbing a soft shot over the keeper’s head for an 8-1 lead.
“We’ve been doing great lately,” Belden said. “We might not be the best team in the county, but we’re definitely top-three.”
In the third-place game:
No. 1 Foothill 8, No. 2 Capistrano Valley 7 (OT)--Crystal Carroll scored on a breakaway with 1:16 left in the second overtime period to give Foothill the lead for good.
Katie Card scored two goals to give Foothill (8-1) a 2-1 lead after the first quarter. The Knights maintained a one-goal edge at halftime, but Capistrano Valley outscored Foothill, 3-1, in the third quarter to take a 5-4 lead.
Card scored three goals to lead the Knights and Carroll had two.
Aimee Stachowski and Alyssa Banks each scored two goals for Capistrano Valley.