The Huntington Beach High girls’ water polo team earned its first CIF Southern Section playoff win in six seasons in beating Murrieta Valley in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs in February.
Oilers coach Mark Canner had led the program to the playoffs in four of his six seasons at the helm. The most recent campaign was his most successful one, as he not only led the Oilers to a playoff victory, but his team also secured the inaugural Wave League title.
Huntington Beach will have to rely on that valuable experience now, as Canner has been named the full-time head coach of the men’s and women’s water polo programs at Cypress College.
Canner said the California High School State Championships summer tournament will be his last as the Oilers’ coach, and several veterans showed that they are ready to carry on after he is gone.
Rising senior goalkeeper Elaina Davey had 12 saves to lead the Oilers to a 6-5 victory over Atherton Menlo in a pool play game on Friday afternoon at Huntington Beach High.
Davey said that the culture instilled by Canner will remain in place.
“That is something that Mark has been building up since our freshman year is having a really positive and hard-working culture,” Davey said. “I think that it’s not going to suffer. We’re going to miss him, obviously, but it’s going to be his legacy.”
Canner called Davey “one of the top goalies in the country,” but it did not stop him from offering her additional help in the cage when his team attempted to kill six-on-five power-play opportunities.
On one occasion, freshman Marilyn Rodriguez entered the pool as a second goalkeeper, and she made a save. Later in the game, center defender Emily Tucker dropped down to the goal mouth as a secondary goalie.
“I’ve been coaching water polo for so long,” Canner said when asked about his decision to utilize two goalies when shorthanded. “I used to use it with 12-and-unders, and it worked really well.
“I actually then started using it at the junior college, and it worked really well. Most teams figure it out the second or third time they play us, but the first time, it’s harder to figure out. It works pretty well on the fly.”
Tucker had a goal inside of two meters. The veteran defender also received help from Hana Homma, who recorded three steals and won two sprints for the opening possession of a quarter.
“Hana had a very good game,” Tucker said. “Hana has improved so much from last year. She is a really good presser.”
Incoming junior Morgan O’Connell, who has started since her freshman year, had two goals. Christina Mullane, a Huntington Beach Water Polo Club product, scored twice. Canner said Mullane does not attend Huntington Beach High, but she was allowed to play for the Oilers as a replacement for Shanna Davidson, who is part of the Cadet Zone Team.
Tatiana Gasparre scored with 2:53 left in the third quarter to give Huntington Beach a 6-4 lead. Her goal proved to be the game-winner.
Rising senior Kate Mallory had a hat-trick for Menlo.
Oilers attacker Elizabeth Lovat, a senior-to-be, said that accountability was one of the staples that led Huntington Beach to the Wave League crown last year. “Mark really preaches accountability,” Lovat said. “Everything is about mentality. If you know what you need to do, you can do it a lot easier.”
Huntington Beach lost to San Clemente 16-8 in its first game of pool play. The teams squared off in the second round of the Division 2 playoffs last season, with the Tritons winning 6-4.
Other girls’ water polo results in the California High School State Championships:
Laguna Beach ‘A’ 17, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 7
Laguna Beach ‘A’ 15, Clovis West 1
Corona del Mar 14, Clovis North 3
Newport Harbor 15, Santa Barbara 3
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