IRVINE — If you checked out the scoreboard in the second period, you might have thought the movie “The Matrix” was on.
Undetectable numbers and letters showed up. Blaring out of the speakers was an unbearable sound, ringing that hurt your ear drums as much as getting ear problems underwater.
Someone unplugged the scoreboard, the sound.
Dos Pueblos High of Goleta unplugged the Newport Harbor girls’ water polo season Wednesday night.
The Sailors never figured out the scoreboard in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. Dos Pueblos solved the problem, winning 9-8 and ending the Sailors’ back-to-back title hopes at Irvine High.
Dos Pueblos (27-3), the No. 2 seed, advanced to its first Division I championship match in the program’s history. It took only one year for the Chargers to accomplish the feat.
That deserves two thumbs up. Goalie Sami Hill and attacker Kiley Neushul provided their right thumbs, banged up and all.
Hill stoned No. 3 Newport Harbor (23-7) while sporting a brace on her fractured right thumb she suffered two weeks ago.
Neushul rang in five goals while playing with a bothered thumb she dislocated earlier in the year while training up north with the U.S. Junior National Team.
The two put away the Sailors, earlier than Coach Bill Barnett expected. Hill and Neushul missed separate matches against Newport Harbor this season due to their injuries.
Nothing held them out of this one. The Division I defending champs fell to the Division II defending champs. And it devastated Newport Harbor.
Nicolina McCall, a senior, walked away, trying to take Barnett’s farewell words to heart after a tough loss.
“If this is the worst thing that happened to you, then you should count your blessings,” McCall said Barnett told the team.
One look at McCall, who’s headed to USC, and you can easily see this match hurt. She scored once in the match and said it was probably the most painful match in her stellar four-year career.
The Sailors’ power-play opportunities fizzled in the pool, going one for six. The Chargers finished three for seven.
The two-goal edge on the six-on-five advantages proved to be the difference in Newport Harbor going home or Dos Pueblos enjoying its 144-mile drive back to the Santa Barbara area. The Chargers were a happy bunch and their Coach Danelle Little had no reason to ask.
“One of the biggest battles [in the program’s history] because it means the most,” she said of reaching the Division I final, where Dos Pueblos will face No. 1 Corona del Mar Saturday at Irvine High at 8 p.m.
The Sailors were on the verge of possibly returning to the championship to win the program’s fifth Division I title and face Back Bay rival CdM for the second straight season. Kaleigh Gilchrist tried her best to keep her team in contention.
The junior recorded her fourth goal of the game, cutting the deficit to one on a five-meter penalty shot with 2 minutes, 44 seconds left in the fourth period.
Newport Harbor goalie Krissy Burger kept it a one-goal game, blocking big shots, one on a power-play situation and another on a five-meter penalty shot by Neushul.
For once, Newport Harbor stopped the sophomore star after Dos Pueblos earned a penalty shot after an illegal Newport Harbor entry with 2:06 left in the match.
“That was the game if it went in,” Barnett said. “We still had a chance.”
Burger stopped another advantage by Dos Pueblos with 44 seconds remaining. Time was running out when Tiera Schroeder stole the ball from the Sailors with 21 seconds to go.
The Chargers called a timeout. The shot clock was shut off. Dos Pueblos was on its way to beating the Sailors for the second time this month.
Little advised her players to spread out. The Chargers played keep away, eating up the clock until it read all zeros.
The Sailors understood the scoreboard, their season was over.
CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NH – Gilchrist 4, Klippert 2, McCall 1, Jackson 1. Saves – Burger 6.
DP – Neushul 5, Redfern 2, K. Hill 1, A. Hill 1. Saves – S, Hill 9.
DAVID CARRILLO PEÑALOZA may be reached at (714) 966-4612 or at email@example.com.