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Corona del Mar girls' water polo survives scare against Carlsbad in CIF SoCal Regional opener

The passing was precise in a crucial moment of the match.

Corona del Mar High girls’ water polo senior co-captain Ella Abbott passed the ball to sophomore Grace Myers on the left side, at the “one” spot. Myers fed it in to senior Sophie Wallace, who turned and fired to score cross-cage.

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“It was a great sequence,” CdM coach Justin Papa said. “[Wallace] was really open in that situation, but anyone that knows water polo knows that receiving that pass from the ‘one’ spot, turning over and finishing cross-cage is really difficult … They made it look easy, but that’s a difficult play.”

The No. 2-seeded Sea Kings needed the goal, which gave them a two-goal advantage with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. They survived an upset bid from No. 7 Carlsbad on Friday night in the opening round of the CIF Southern California Regional Division I playoffs at Segerstrom High.

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Wallace scored four goals as CdM earned a 6-5 victory, advancing to Saturday’s semifinals.

The opponent there will be familiar, as the Sea Kings (20-8) play No. 3-seeded Orange Lutheran at 2:50 p.m. CdM is 2-0 against the Lancers this season, including an upset 8-7 victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals on Feb. 13.

Top-seeded Laguna Beach plays No. 4 Foothill in the first semifinal at 1:40 p.m. The SoCal Regional Division I final is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Segerstrom.

CdM was playing its first match since its 9-8 sudden-death loss to Laguna Beach in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match on Feb. 16.

“I think it’s tough, coming off a long week, an emotional week, a difficult week,” Papa said. “I thought we did a good job of coming out and communicating and bringing energy. They continue to show me their character every time they play. They came out and attacked for a win, on a day where they could really say, hey, season’s over, we don’t really want to play that hard.

“This [tournament] doesn’t have the same bearing as the CIF playoffs do, but they’re never satisfied. I was happy with their performance. I was proud of having a team that showed up and played hard when they didn’t have to.”

Carlsbad (19-10), the CIF San Diego Section Open Division finalist, gave CdM all it could handle. Carlsbad never trailed by more than two goals and pulled within 5-4 when Jordan Neushal scored her second goal with 4:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Wallace’s fourth goal gave the Sea Kings a 6-4 lead, but Carlsbad’s Fiona Schmidt scored a redirect goal with 1:17 left to halve the Lancers’ deficit. Carlsbad had a chance to tie the score in the final minute, but CdM goalkeeper Maya Avital (seven saves) blocked Maeve Murphy’s shot with 32 seconds remaining.

Myers had a goal and two assists and Carter Britt also scored for CdM, which will live to play at least one more match Saturday before concluding its season.

“We’re all super-close and we didn’t want [the season] to be over,” Wallace said. “I think it’s really cool to come out and play against the best again together.”

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