Newport Harbor girls’ water polo upset bid falls just short against Orange Lutheran

Angelena Peterson at the CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal match.
Newport Harbor’s Angelena Peterson takes a shot during the CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal match against top-seeded Orange Lutheran on Wednesday at Orange Coast College.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Newport Harbor High girls’ water polo team held Orange Lutheran to a season-low goal total Wednesday night.

It was the kind of defensive effort the Sailors were seeking in the CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal match at Orange Coast College.

In the end, like so many other times this season, Newport Harbor still finished just a goal short.


Orange Lutheran junior goalkeeper Kyla Pranajaya made some big saves down the stretch and the top-seeded Lancers survived for a 7-6 victory.

Orange Lutheran (27-0) remained undefeated and has one match to go to earn its second straight Open Division title. It’s an all-Trinity League affair in the final, as the Lancers will play No. 3-seeded Mater Dei (24-4) for the title on Saturday at 12:10 p.m. at Mt. San Antonio College.

Newport Harbor's Gabby Alexson has a shot blocked at close range by Orange Lutheran goalie Kyla Pranajaya.
Newport Harbor’s Gabby Alexson has a shot blocked at close range by Orange Lutheran goalie Kyla Pranajaya during Wednesday’s CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal match at Orange Coast College.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Our goal wasn’t to be undefeated,” said Orange Lutheran coach Brenda Villa, the four-time Olympic women’s water polo medalist who has her team in a position to earn another championship plaque. “Our goal was to get better throughout the season. I still don’t think we’ve played a full game up to our potential, but I also know that it doesn’t have to be perfect. As long as we have one more than the other team, we keep going on.”

That was the case against Newport Harbor (18-9), which will continue its season next week in the CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs. But Wednesday night’s loss surely stung.

It was the Sailors’ seventh loss by a single goal this season. The other two losses were by just two goals. But they also earned some big close wins, including last week’s upset of No. 4-seeded Santa Barbara San Marcos on the road.

“I’m really proud of them,” Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair said. “We just ran out of time. The whole season long, you could never count us out, and I thought we did a great job of that all year long, finding a way to get back into it.”

Newport Harbor's Ryan Chalupnik (3) redirects a pass into the goal past Orange Lutheran's Sam Kim during Wednesday's match.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Sailors did that Wednesday, holding the Lancers scoreless in the fourth quarter as they tried to claw back from a 7-4 deficit. Junior Harper Price drew a penalty shot that senior Ryan Chalupnik converted, and the Sailors drew within a goal on freshman Madison Mack’s counterattack goal with 1:39 remaining.

But a shot with 40 seconds left was saved by Pranajaya, who made five of her nine stuffs in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back stops from close range earlier in the period with Newport on the power play.

The Sailors got the ball back with 10 seconds left, but were unable to get a shot off before time expired.

Pranajaya was cast into the spotlight when Orange Lutheran goalie Lauren Steele graduated early and enrolled at UCLA.

Newport Harbor's Sofia Del Villar, right, makes a big defensive play.
Newport Harbor’s Valery Verdugo, right, makes a big defensive play as she tips a pass intended for Kate Sloman of Orange Lutheran during Wednesday’s match.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I always knew, no matter what, I’d have my senior year,” Pranajaya said. “But since she left early, now I had to step up and be there for my team. Although they’re big shoes to fill, I felt that I could do it, because I’ve been training with Lauren and this team since freshman year.”

Jailynn Robinson and Allison Cohen each scored two goals to lead the Lancers. Chalupnik scored twice to lead the Sailors, with senior Sofia Del Villar, junior Caitlin Stayt and freshman Valery Verdugo also scoring.

Chalupnik took the loss tough after the match, understandably so after a standout career with the Sailors.

“Losing like this is terrible,” she said. “It’s a lot of emotion … We’re a family here. We’re fully a family. I’ve played with the same girls since 10Us. That’s something that not many teams have. It’s so special, and it’s hard to let it go.

“That’s what’s so special about Newport, you’re so close with everybody that you’re family. We just love each other so much.”

Newport Harbor goalie Lydia Soderberg lunges for a shot by Orange Lutheran's Jailynn Robinson during Wednesday's match.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In a Division 1 semifinal match:

Corona del Mar 11, Dos Pueblos 7: The top-seeded Sea Kings got the win at home Wednesday to advance to Saturday’s Division 1 title match.

Ava Schoening led the Sea Kings (19-11) with four goals, and Reagan Weir scored three. Didi Evans and Audrey Long each scored twice while Mackenzie Dollander dished out a pair of assists.

Goalkeeper Gabby MacAfee made eight saves for CdM, which will play No. 3-seeded JSerra (18-8) for the title on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College. CdM will be seeking its second Division 1 title in three years.