CdM's counter ruthless

CORONA DEL MAR — A swim meet broke out Friday afternoon at the Corona del Mar High pool.

Midway through the second quarter, CdM sophomore Cassidy Papa was sprinting as hard as she could down the pool.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Papa was still doing the same thing.

The Sea Kings' counterattack was relentless as they eased past Foothill in the nonleague girls' water polo match, 10-5.

Five of CdM's 10 goals came off its counterattack, including a penalty shot earned by senior Tori Gabert on the counter. Papa, who converted the shot, led the way in the game with four goals.

"We wanted to come out and really show what we're made of," Papa said. "We've been swimming and countering every single practice. We wanted to show, even against a good team like Foothill, that we can still counter them and really get up on them, and keep that intensity for the whole game."

Ally McCormick also scored three times for CdM (6-4), two on the counter. She and Papa got on-the-money passes every time from junior goalie Alex Musselman.

Musselman, who tied a season-high with 16 saves, also had four assists.

"She's amazing," Papa said of Musselman. "I've never really played with any other goalie that can pass like that. It's really nice to have that. [You] trust her to make the block, and trust her to make the pass. And she trusts me and whoever else is up on the counter. She trusts us to be able to take the ball and put it away."

Coach Sam Bailey said it all starts with defense for the Sea Kings, who have won five of their last six matches — four of those coming against Division I top-10 opponents. They had a 2-1 lead after a quarter. Twice early in the second quarter, Foothill (5-6) had shots to tie the score go bar-out.

The Sea Kings took advantage on a crisp series of passes from McCormick to senior Lauren Marks to junior Pippa Saunders. Her shot went bar-in, trickling into the net to give Corona del Mar a 3-1 lead with 3:56 left in the first half.

From there, it was off to the races. CdM held a 6-1 halftime lead and continued countering. Papa scored next, beating a triple-team and charging Foothill goalie Kelsey Rowland. The sophomores both countered on the next possession, with Papa feeding McCormick for an 8-1 lead midway through the third quarter.

Bailey's Sea Kings again missed senior captain Maddie Schwartz. She's missed the past two games after an injury suffered in practice Tuesday. Schwartz has a brace on her right index finger, but Bailey said she could be back in the pool soon.

"She's given so much energy and so much passion for her team and her teammates," Bailey said. "For her to not have an opportunity to play these last two games is really hard on her."

What it's done, however, is give CdM a chance to show off its depth. Junior Diana Murphy also had a goal and sophomore Morgan Stewart finished off the team's scoring Friday, finding the back of the net from about seven meters out with 2:26 left in the game.

"Even the bench players came out and ran everything the way that we were practicing," Bailey said. "Credit their hard work in practice, credit their concentration and attention to detail. I think the girls are all playing with a lot of confidence in their ability and their teammates."

The Sea Kings held Foothill's Jessie Porter scoreless although Porter, the Knights' leading scorer, did have three steals. Sophomore Nicole Stansfield led the way for Foothill with four goals.

Papa said she's glad CdM was able to win difficult nonleague games against Laguna Beach and Foothill this week, coming off the Sea Kings' second-place finish in the Holiday Cup. They open Pacific Coast League play at home against Northwood on Wednesday before heading to the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions next weekend.

CdM is considered a big favorite to win its 12th straight Pacific Coast League title.

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