McLaren lifts Newport

GOLETA — Coach Bill Barnett repeatedly yelled at Presley Pender to shoot the ball.

Pender did not shoot the ball.

Instead she passed to her fellow junior, Maddy McLaren, at the far post. The decision ultimately paid off for the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team, as McLaren blasted in the power-play strike midway through the third quarter against rival Corona del Mar.

"I love passing to Maddy," Pender explained after the game at Dos Pueblos High. "We've been best friends for so long. I just feel so confident passing to her, that things will turn out positively."

Nobody could argue. If Barnett was in the water, he might have passed it to McLaren too.

The girl with the red hair was on fire Friday night, scoring five goals to lift the Sailors to a 7-4 victory over their Back Bay rivals in a Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions quarterfinal game.

Newport Harbor (12-1) will face top-seeded Dos Pueblos (14-0) in a tournament semifinal at 11:10 a.m. today at Santa Barbara High. With their two wins Friday, the two-time defending CIF Southern Section Division I champion Chargers have won 50 straight games dating back to February, 2009.

McLaren knows someone eventually will have to end that streak.

"We've watched them just win and win and win," McLaren said of the team that has knocked the Sailors out of the playoffs the past two years, in the semifinals and final, respectively. "We're ready to beat them. We're ready to be the team that upsets Dos Pueblos."

This is the teams' first high school meeting since that Division I final last year. Dos Pueblos has also won the TOC the past two years.

Santa Barbara faces Los Alamitos in the other semifinal, with the championship game at 4:35 p.m. at Santa Barbara.

Corona del Mar (8-5) plays Montebello in a fifth-place semifinal at 9 a.m., also at Santa Barbara High.

Newport Harbor earned its shot at the champs by coming out strong against the Sea Kings, unlike in the Battle of the Bay earlier this year where the Sailors had to rally for a 6-5 overtime victory.

Friday night, they built a 2-0 lead in the first three minutes. McLaren and senior Kailyn Obenauer both scored, the latter goal on a counter. CdM's Diana Murphy scored from set, on a pass from Ally McCormick, to narrow the deficit with 3:21 left in the first quarter.

The score stayed the same until just before halftime, when a strong drive by senior Mary Rose Wight earned a penalty shot. McLaren converted it, giving the Sailors a 3-1 halftime lead.

Newport senior defender Catherine Carpenter was in foul trouble with two fouls. Then again, so was Murphy, a primary center for the Sea Kings. CdM had problems getting things going at two meters.

"We had to adjust [to playing much of the game without Carpenter]," said Sailors senior goalie Sarah Wilkey, who made eight saves. "But our defense was unstoppable this game. We played a great defensive game. We got things done."

CdM tried to rally in the third quarter. Senior Devon Greenlee scored bar-down on her team's first possession, and the Sea Kings soon had a six-on-five chance. But the shot was high, and the Sailors immediately drew an exclusion of their own. McLaren converted the aforementioned pass from Pender for a 4-2 lead.

"That's difficult," McCormick said. "We always try to execute on our six-on-fives. It's a bummer when we can't, but we played a good team."

The lead grew to 5-2 on McLaren's strike from about eight meters out. After CdM senior Lauren Marks answered on a six-on-five, McLaren scored her final goal with four seconds left in the third quarter, and the Sailors were on their way.

Pippa Saunders also scored for the Sea Kings. Junior goalie Alex Musselman tied a season-low with five saves; the Sailors' shots usually found their mark.

"Alex is an awesome goalie, and she usually blocks everything," McLaren said. "It was a big thing for me to score some goals on her. I was super-stoked."

Pender had a strong all-around game for Newport Harbor with a goal, an assist and two steals. Carpenter also had two steals.

Now about that Dos Pueblos team.

"When we were freshmen they beat us," McLaren said of the CIF semifinal loss in 2009. "And last year, they did. They're always there, and they've always been up on us. We want to rally up and maybe break their winning streak. You don't know [what can happen]."

Newport advanced after defeating Long Beach Wilson, 7-4, in its opening-round game. McLaren and junior Sophie Leveque each scored twice, and Carpenter, Obenauer and Pender each added a goal.

The Sailors never trailed against the Bruins, but their lead was cut to 6-4 midway through the fourth quarter. But Leveque's power-play strike with 1:27 to go helped seal the victory.

CdM got past Santiago of Corona, 13-10, in its first-round game. Saunders and Cassidy Papa each scored four goals each, with McCormick and Murphy scoring twice and Greenlee adding a goal.

Musselman also had a strong game in the opener with 14 saves, two of those on penalty shots.

The Sea Kings led by as much as 9-5 in the third quarter. Santiago rallied within 11-10 with 3:17 left in the game on a power-play goal by junior Julia Kirkland, who had a game-high five goals.

But the Sea Kings got a six-on-five strike from McCormick, and Papa's goal from seven meters closed out the scoring.

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