GOLETA — “No, no, no, no,” Newport Harbor High girls’ water polo coach Bill Barnett said to senior goalie Morgan Vickers midway through the Sailors’ first-round game at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions on Friday.
Vickers had just made an apparently not-Barnett-approved pass in the middle of the pool to sophomore teammate Kate Klippert. But she was quick with a counter to her coach, reminding him that at least the pass was technically sound.
“It was right on our hands,” Vickers said, cheerful as always.
All day, Vickers and the Sailors kept countering. This time, they were countering their opponent, using the counterattack effectively in both their 8-2 win over El Toro and 9-7 victory over Villa Park at Dos Pueblos High and advancing to today’s tournament semifinals.
Newport Harbor (14-1) will face Foothill in one semifinal at Dos Pueblos today at 12:15 p.m. That game will be preceded by the other semifinal: Corona del Mar against Dos Pueblos, at 11:10 a.m. The tournament championship game is scheduled for 4:35 p.m.
The Sailors had to survive a spirited effort by Villa Park to advance. The Spartans, who had come back from a 5-1 deficit to upset Coronado earlier in the day, were leading Newport Harbor, 4-3, early in the third quarter after a goal by senior Cassie Churnside.
But then, the Sailors figured it out. Klippert scored an equalizer on the next possession, then fellow sophomore Kaleigh Gilchrist (three goals) found the back of the net for a 5-4 Tars lead.
Junior Nicolina McCall then scored one of her game-high four goals, when Vickers fed senior Erin Reid on a long pass before Reid flipped to McCall right in front of the goal. The score game Newport Harbor a 6-4 lead, and McCall and Gilchrist combined for the Sailors’ next three goals to push the advantage to 9-5.
“We saw how they played in the first half, and we had to adjust what we were doing,” Reid said. “We didn’t think they’d be countering us ... They were playing a drop defense, which gave us outside shots. In the second half, we realized that and picked up our outside shooting.”
It was all to the dismay of Villa Park Coach Brent Danna.
“Newport’s fast,” Danna said. “They just kept swimming and swimming and swimming. We kept feeding their counterattack, because we were taking ill-advised shots and making poor passes.”
Tournament of Champions
Newport Harbor 9, Villa Park 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NH – McCall 4, Gilchrist 3, Bury 1, Klippert 1. Saves – Vickers 4.
VP – Churnside 4, Waasted 3. Saves – Morton 6.
Newport Harbor 8, El Toro 2
SCORE BY QUARTERS
ET – Todisco 2. Saves – Campoli 7.
NH – Bury 2, Reid 2, Klippert 1, McCall 1, Robinson 1, Gilchrist 1. Saves – Vickers 7.