The Huntington Beach High girls’ water polo team faced adversity this season, almost from the opening sprint.
UC San Diego-bound senior attacker Nicca Fallah, expected to be one of the team’s top scorers, was lost to a nose injury during the second match of the season against Santa Barbara San Marcos. Fallah never made it back into the water. She was announced as an assistant coach Saturday, as the Oilers played San Clemente in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs.
“It was one of those seasons where there was just a lot of adversity thrown at us,” Oilers coach Mark Canner said.
Still, the Oilers made significant accomplishments. They won the Wave League and beat Murrieta Valley in overtime on Wednesday in a first-round match, their first postseason win in six years.
A second one proved just a bit too tough of a task.
Senior Brooklyn Aguilera scored three goals for No. 2-seeded San Clemente, which beat Huntington Beach 6-4 at Vista Hermosa Sports Park to end the Oilers’ season.
San Clemente (16-13) will move on to play No. 3-seeded Santa Barbara in Wednesday’s semifinals, a match Tritons coach Logan Powell called a grudge match after the Dons beat the Tritons by a goal last year in the semifinals.
Seniors Shanna Zuanich and Courtney Heydorff, junior Emily Tucker and freshman Shanna Davidson each scored one goal for Huntington Beach (18-11). Junior goalkeeper Elaina Davey made 13 saves.
Heydorff turned from her defender and scored late in the third quarter, tying the score at 3-3.
But San Clemente scored three straight goals. First it was Kendall Patrick on the power play and Adrina Daniel with a rebound goal to close out the third quarter, then Juliette Clark from center with 6:03 remaining in the fourth.
The Oilers were fortunate to score again, as Tucker’s long-range shot was field-blocked by Clark but went in with three minutes left. But Huntington Beach couldn’t score again.
“I thought defensively, we did what we needed to do,” said Powell, adding that Grace Pelkey guarded the freshman phenom Davidson, while Aguilera and Lang Csira guarded Heydorff. “We kept them to four goals, and the last goal was a redirect where we actually made a good defensive play and were unlucky. So three earned goals in a game, it’s hard to lose when you do that.”
Morgan O’Connell had three steals and two field blocks for Huntington Beach, which also received two steals from Tucker.
“I’m proud of this team and what they accomplished throughout the year,” Canner said. “I think this program has taken a long time to build, but I think we’re on the right track.”
Heydorff, one of two team captains along with the goalkeeper Davey, would agree.
“We came out hard and played strong,” said Heydorff, bound for UC Santa Barbara. “I couldn’t be more proud of my team, how we finished. Even though it wasn’t what we wanted, I thought we battled really hard.
“For the past three years, we’ve lost in a wild-card [match]. Obviously we wanted to win it all, but I’m super-proud of my team and how far we’ve come this year.”