Advertisement
Share

Newport Harbor girls’ lacrosse beats rival CdM to advance to its first CIF final

Members of the Newport Harbor girls' lacrosse team hug goalie Lucy Valdez after beating CdM in a CIF Division 2 semifinal.
Members of the Newport Harbor girls’ lacrosse team hug goalie Lucy Valdez after beating CdM in a CIF Division 2 semifinal.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor’s first trip to a girls’ lacrosse championship game was built on its prowess in possession, the Sailors permitting their archrival nearly no time with the ball after it had gotten more from the first half.

Eight wins in 10 draw controls — the face-off that starts the half and follows each goal — and a willingness to kill the game by holding onto the ball without actively seeking to score made the difference in Thursday night’s 10-6 Battle of the Bay home triumph over Corona del Mar, the defending CIF Southern Section Division 2 champion.

Newport Harbor (14-9) scored four unanswered goals in the first nine and a half minutes of the second half, a span played almost entirely around the Sea Kings’ net, then took the air out of the game, relying heavily on senior stars Olivia Gritzmacher and Rowdy Farmer to keep second-seeded CdM (14-6) on the defensive all but for a few moments after the break.

The Newport Harbor girls' lacrosse team celebrates after beating Corona del Mar in a CIF Division 2 semifinal on Tuesday.
The Newport Harbor girls’ lacrosse team celebrates after beating Corona del Mar in a CIF Division 2 semifinal on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

It was capped with a wild celebration by the third-seeded Sailors, whose reward is a showdown in Saturday afternoon’s final at Downey High School against No. 6 Murrieta Mesa (20-1), which stunned No. 1 Mater Dei, 9-8, on the road in overtime in the other Division 2 semifinal, a prize more special because it was won against the Back Bay rival.

“Oh, it felt so good,” said Gritzmacher, who followed Farmer’s tying goal 45 seconds into the second half with three in succession, two on 8-meter sprints after drawing fouls. “Honestly, I’ve never had a better feeling in my life. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. Winning against your rival just makes it 10 times better.”

Farmer scored four goals and assisted on two more in the first half by Caroline Close, and Claire Abraham put away the last, giving Newport Harbor a five-goal advantage with 3:26 to go.

Corona del Mar's Megan Schafer, right, hugs Amanda Cord following a loss to Newport Harbor.
Corona del Mar’s Megan Schafer, right, hugs Amanda Cord following a loss to Newport Harbor.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Frankie Garcia, who scored or assisted on five of CdM’s strikes, answered 19 seconds later with a 50-yard run for her third goal of the night, and the Sea Kings didn’t see the ball again.

“They decided to stall the game at 15½ minutes [left to play], and in 15½ minutes that we don’t get possession, it’s hard to score a goal,” said Corona del Mar coach Jessica Murray, whose team took a pair of early two-goal leads and led 4-3 at the break. “I think we had three opportunities and we scored on two of them, and that’s all we had the entire second half.

“That’s a good game plan, but it’s also a different-style game plan.”

Corona del Mar's Belle Grace, right, is consoled by a teammate following a loss to Newport Harbor in a CIF semifinal.
Corona del Mar’s Belle Grace, right, is consoled by a teammate following a loss to Newport Harbor in a CIF semifinal.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The approach was made possible by Newport Harbor’s second-half dominance on the midfield draws and a defensive shift designed to deny Garcia and Abby Grace, the Sea Kings’ best attackers, and if it might seem, as Gritzmacher put it, “boring from the outside,” it was incredibly effective.

“It’s all about possession in this game, it’s all about draw controls, and the more draw controls you get, the more possession you have,” said Newport Harbor coach Brooke Martini, whose team split two Sunset League meetings with CdM, both one-goal decisions. “You have to go in with a different game plan when you go against a team that you already played twice in league. You’ve got to go in with something a little crazy, and that’s what we did tonight.”

“We call it ’52,’” said Farmer, who has 15 playoff goals, 71 for the season and scored four in each meeting with the Sea Kings. “We have five standing [on the perimeter] and two inside, and then we went to ‘Stallion,’ which is pretty much running around as far as we can, trying to keep away from the defense. It worked to our advantage. Our speed and our endurance helped us.”

Newport Harbor's Rowdy Farmer runs upfield under pressure from Corona del Mar's Charlotte Keifer on Tuesday.
Newport Harbor’s Rowdy Farmer runs upfield under pressure from Corona del Mar’s Charlotte Keifer on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Corona del Mar “just tried to double-team,” said captain Belle Grace, who scored her team’s third goal (Amanda Cord netted the first). “It’s all you can do when they hold the ball like that.”

Attempts to dislodge the ball led to fouls and three yellow cards, each leaving the Sea Kings a player short for two minutes. Gritzmacher and Farmer scored on power plays.

Murrieta Mesa has lost just three times in the past two seasons, twice to Newport Harbor, which on March 26 claimed an 11-7 home win behind Gritzmacher’s hat-trick and two goals each from Farmer, Close and Lucy Toohey.

Newport Harbor's Olivia Gritzmacher is pressured by Corona del Mar's Frankie Garcia on Tuesday.
Newport Harbor’s Olivia Gritzmacher is pressured by Corona del Mar’s Frankie Garcia on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“Being in the championship just means everything to everyone. We’ve never been in one before,” Martini said. “Yes, we played Murrieta Mesa this season, but that doesn’t change anything. We’re going in like we never played them, like they’re equal in talent, which they are. They have a very talented team.

“I think our team’s ready, I think we have a great shot at winning this game. ... We have the mental game over a lot of teams. We don’t ever give up.”

::

Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.

For more sports stories, visit latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/sports or follow us on Twitter @DailyPilotSport.


Advertisement