Megan Peterson’s sudden-death goal lifts CdM girls’ water polo past rival Newport Harbor

The Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor high school girls’ water polo teams combined for just two goals in 22 minutes of game action after halftime Tuesday night.

The teams’ first Battle of the Bay meeting of the season turned into a bit of a swim meet at CdM.

“It was definitely a stalemate,” CdM coach Justin Papa said. “It was intense. It was nerve-wracking.”

With the offensive firepower lagging, the unexpected happened. Leave it to a junior defender to score the game-winning goal.

Megan Peterson ended it for the Sea Kings. She scored with 1:35 remaining in the first sudden-death overtime period off a foul from about seven meters, lifting CdM to a 6-5 win over its rival in the Surf League match.

The Back Bay rivalry was originally scheduled to be at Newport Harbor, but the schools moved it to CdM because of a problem with the water heater at Newport Harbor, said Papa. The Sailors were the designated home team.

Wherever the programs have played in the last four years, the Sea Kings have owned the Sailors.

Just hearing all of them saying, ‘This is your ball,’ it gave me confidence to look at the goal, .. and know that everyone had confidence in my shot.

Megan Peterson, Corona del Mar High defender

The victory, CdM’s sixth in a row over Newport Harbor, kept the Sea Kings (12-3, 2-0 in league) undefeated in league play heading into a key home match against Laguna Beach on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Peterson’s shot was precise, as she found the upper-right corner after the foul. It was her second goal, which tied her with senior Carter Britt for team-best honors.

“I saw the corner open when I initially went to grab the ball,” Peterson said. “I took a deep breath and kind of looked at all of my teammates. Just hearing all of them saying, ‘This is your ball,’ it gave me confidence to look at the goal, take a deep breath and know that everyone had confidence in my shot.”

Her goal was CdM’s first since the second quarter. The only goal in the second half came from Newport Harbor’s Brooke Banta, whose power-play strike, assisted by freshman Morgan Netherton, tied the score at 5-5 with 1:58 remaining in the third quarter.

Credit both goalkeepers for keeping the offenses at bay. Newport Harbor senior Erin Ross made 12 saves, while junior Maya Avital had 14 saves for CdM, ranked No. 5 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2. Both goalkeepers were coming off all-tournament team selections at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions over the weekend.

Avital made a block of a Newport Harbor penalty shot with 1:18 left in the second overtime period that preserved the 5-5 tie.

“The best version of Maya is in the biggest moments,” Papa said. “When the lights are the brightest, the moment’s the biggest and the team needs her the most, she is the best version of herself. She comes through with maybe the biggest penalty [shot] she’s blocked in her whole life. She steps up and keeps us in the game. When she’s in that moment, she’s expecting to make that block, and that’s the type of athlete she is.”

Corona del Mar High goalkeeper Maya Avital makes a save against Newport Harbor in a Surf League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor (11-7, 0-2), ranked No. 7 in Division 1 and 2, did well to limit CdM senior Sophie Wallace and sophomore Grace Myers to one combined goal. But senior center Layne Anzaldo added a goal for the winners, who scored four straight goals to take a 5-3 lead late in the second quarter.

“Defensively, it was one of the best games we’ve played,” Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair said. “I thought Erin in the cage made some huge saves. I thought our transition defense was significantly better [in the second half] and stopped a lot of their opportunities. They’re a really good counterattack team.

“We’re definitely progressing. There are a lot of good teams, and we want to try to be in the mix of that.”

Skibby, Linnea Kelly and freshman Lily Gess also scored for Newport Harbor, which plays Los Alamitos in its next Surf League match Thursday at 6:20 p.m. at CdM.

The Sailors almost earned the upset, but Peterson had other ideas.

“This whole year we’ve talked about how well-rounded we are,” Papa said. “We don’t feel like we’re based around one player or two players. I think we’re strong at every position offensively and defensively. So when someone tries to game plan to take away a certain part of our game, someone else is there to step up … so it’s not surprising that Megan Peterson finishes that last shot. We train every day in practice for those situations, and that’s her hard work paying off and stepping up in the moment when we need it.”

Twitter: @mjszabo