Segerstrom girls’ water polo too strong for Ocean View

Melissa Fernandez has been coaching high school water polo at Ocean View High since 2005, and that’s plenty long enough to know that things can go in cycles.

The Seahawks girls narrowly won their third straight Golden West League title last year. But they lost key pieces like Kari Lane, defender Madison Jacks and goalie Ieva Vaiciunas, to graduation. Fernandez estimated that Lane scored 80% of the team’s goals last season.

That kind of production could have made Tuesday’s league opener at Segerstrom closer. Instead, the Seahawks were routed 14-3 by the Jaguars.

Ocean View (5-7, 0-1 in league) and Segerstrom (9-1, 1-0) have been the class of the league for years, as well as rivals. Segerstrom beat Ocean View in the 2014 CIF Southern Section Division 7 title match.

That year was also the last time the Jaguars were able to win the league title. Last year, Segerstrom was able to win the scheduled league meeting against the Seahawks, but Ocean View won when it counted, 7-6 in the league title game.

“The last time we won league, [the seniors] were eighth-graders,” first-year Segerstrom coach Mike Varela said.

It was a sophomore, Faith Cueva, who led Segerstrom in scoring Tuesday with four goals as well as a team-best four steals. Senior Pita Barajas added three goals, while sophomore Leslie Cascas and senior Mia Favela each scored twice.

Ocean View fell behind 7-0 in the second quarter, when Seahawks junior left-hander Leyna Tran scored the first of her two goals, an outside shot with 4:36 remaining in the half.

Tran scored again, this time from center, in the final minute of the half, but Segerstrom had a 9-2 halftime advantage.

Fernandez said that Tran has taken over as the team’s top scoring option, but Ocean View is largely inexperienced. In addition, the Seahawks have seven field players, meaning just one substitute off the bench.

Sophomore Autumn Knox had a goal and two steals for Ocean View, while freshman Angelina Franzetti, senior Jasmine Silva and senior Carsyn Van Doren made one steal each.

Senior goalkeeper Kiara Abascal played well for the Seahawks against the Jaguars, making 10 saves and adding a pair of steals. But Segerstrom, ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division 4, was able to surpass its season average of 10.3 goals per game.

“I was hoping we could generate a little more offensively,” Fernandez said. “I knew they had strong players. We were going to have to score some goals to hang with them … but we struggled to move the ball.”

Still, Fernandez is pleased with the progress of her team, which plays host to Loara on Thursday at 3 p.m. in its second league game.

“They’re starting to understand the big picture and they’re starting to move in the right places,” she said. “I feel like sometimes we’re just one pass away from an opportunity. We have someone open in front of the cage, we’re just not getting the ball there. But the big-picture understanding has gotten a lot better.

“What I like about this team is that they all try to get involved. There’s not one or two that really take it over. They all do their part, which is really nice.”

Twitter: @mjszabo