Tars put it together

NEWPORT BEACH — The ball rarely touched the water as the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team passed it along the perimeter early, waiting for the right opportunity.

First junior Maddy McLaren buried a shot from about seven meters, then senior Catherine Carpenter scored bar-in from about eight.

Even unplanned plays were working. As the first quarter drew to a close, senior Mary Rose Wight found the corner of the net from mid-tank.

Everyone got into the action as the Sailors posted perhaps one of their most impressive wins of the season, 14-5, over El Toro on Saturday morning at Newport Harbor. Newport Harbor looked like a well-oiled machine in its last nonleague game before the biggest week of the regular season.

"We came out really hard," said senior Kailyn Obenauer, who helped the Sailors, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section coaches' poll, put the game away in the third quarter.

She got a hat trick in less than three minutes, scoring twice on the power play before drawing an exclusion on El Toro's Delaney Riley. Obenauer then struck again, giving the Sailors a 10-4 lead with 2:30 left in the quarter.

"I was just really proud of my team," Obenauer said. "We played really well as a team and Sarah Wilkey was on her game today. The flow of the game just felt good. Our outside shooting was really on."

Wilkey made sure the Chargers, ranked No. 6 in Division II, couldn't get anything going. The goalie made a career-high 17 saves and held El Toro to just two "natural" goals, as two came on six-on-fives and one on a penalty shot.

After helping her current team, Wilkey then dashed out to go watch her future team, UCLA, win against Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon.

Wight also scored three times for Newport Harbor (15-4), with Carpenter, McLaren and Carly Christian scoring two goals each. Allyson Hall and Sophie Leveque also scored.

The team aspect shined as Pender and McLaren each dished out three assists, and Elissia Schilling had two.

Defensively, Coach Bill Barnett's Sailors clamped down. El Toro (13-7) went just two of six in power-play situations, while Newport Harbor was four of eight.

"We've been working a lot on five-on-six [defense] and six-on-five [offense] throughout the week," Obenauer said. "Our six-on-five is still not where it needs to be, but it's getting there."

McLaren spent much of the second half tangled up with El Toro sophomore defender Allison Skaggs, but the referee was letting them play. The next time down, he called a quick offensive foul on El Toro senior Justine Morgan, which drew the ire of Chargers Coach Daniel "Racc" Julson.

"Now you're watching two meters all of a sudden," Julson said, and the referee immediately responded with a yellow card late in the third quarter.

El Toro couldn't similarly slow Newport Harbor down.

"Our passing was a lot better this game," said Christian, who also had two steals along with Leveque and Wight. "We work on it a lot in practice. We've been communicating a lot more, which helps us see where people are and pass to the right people who are open."

Morgan, headed for Long Beach State, also scored three goals for El Toro.

Newport Harbor can now prepare for a key Sunset League game against Edison on Wednesday night, a game that more than likely will determine the second-place finisher in league. The Irvine Southern California Championships then start Thursday.

The Sailors are seeded fourth in the 32-team tournament that ends Saturday. CdM is fifth, which means the Back Bay rivals could meet again in the quarterfinals, like they did in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions on Jan. 14. Newport won that game, 7-4.

Obenauer said the team recognizes the importance of the tournament for CIF seeding purposes.

"And we also have formal that weekend too, but thank God it's on Saturday night," she said. "We won't have any distractions. We're going to be really focused on the tournament."

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