NEWPORT BEACH — The drop got dropped, and the press was impressive.
The Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team is known for that press defense, and the Sailors went back to it Friday afternoon at the Holiday Cup tournament.
It showed in the pool as the Sailors took fifth in the tournament by beating Santa Barbara, 5-2. Earlier in the day, they bested Palos Verdes, 14-6, in a fifth-place semifinal.
The game against Santa Barbara didn't feature much offense. Defensively, though, the press obviously worked, as the Dons couldn't get on the scoreboard until Charlotte Hendrix skipped in a goal with 5:18 left in the contest.
Newport Coach Bill Barnett said after Thursday's quarterfinal loss to Foothill that his team was dropping too much on defense. Sailors junior Maddy McLaren, who scored a goal and had two steals against the Dons, echoed that point Friday.
"We really wanted to work on our press," McLaren said. "We've been dropping a lot, and [opponents] have been scoring a lot on outside shots. Sarah's an awesome goalie, but for any goalie it's hard to get up there to that high corner … We tried to press as much as we could, and I think that really worked for us."
Tars senior Mary Rose Wight led the defensive stand in the first half with her four steals, and Wilkey made 14 saves. Wight said she and Catherine Carpenter focused on limiting Santa Barbara's set girls, Hendrix and Arizona State signee Makenzy Fowler.
The Sailors (7-1) were balanced offensively as well, despite not drawing any exclusions all game. McLaren, Carpenter, Carly Christian, Elissia Schilling and Kailyn Obenauer all scored one goal each.
McLaren is listed as a defender but was impressive offensively throughout the tournament, tallying 15 goals over the four games. She scored eight in the win over Palos Verdes.
"I just wanted to prove that I'm a big a part of this team and I tried to help out with goal-scoring.," she said. "I wanted to show everyone that we're a good team and we're good competition. We might not have shown it in our final [placing] in this [tournament], but look at a team like CdM. They're in the first-place game and we beat them [two weeks] ago."
McLaren can be forgiven for the verbal jab at the Sea Kings. The Sailors are proud of their Battle of the Bay overtime win Dec. 17, but they're looking forward.
Newport Harbor opens Sunset League action against Fountain Valley on Wednesday.
"We're trying to be consistent," Wight said. "We're really excited about our league starting. Hopefully we'll win league; that's our goal."