Corona del Mar finishes strong

IRVINE — As Diana Murphy continued making power moves at two meters on Saturday afternoon, a certain other Murphy proudly watched on the pool deck at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

Jacob Murphy is a familiar name to local water polo fans, the Pacific Coast League boys' water polo MVP in 2005 before starring at UCLA.

He also joined the CdM girls this weekend as an assistant coach. Coach Sam Bailey said Murphy, who has played on the U.S. men's national team, just got back from playing professionally in Australia.

The middle sibling, Kate, was CdM's starting goalie in 2006-07 and played at UC Santa Barbara.

"It's been really nice to have his input," Diana Murphy said. "He knows exactly what he's talking about. I go in, I do what he tells me and it works. It proves to be effective."

The youngest Murphy, a junior, led a fierce fourth-quarter comeback Saturday at the Irvine Southern California Championships. But Los Alamitos used a late goal to take fifth place, 8-7.

The Griffins' Cory Dodson scored the game-winner from up top with four seconds left. CdM had rallied from a 7-4 deficit late in the third quarter, the last two goals coming from Murphy, the Sea Kings' lone an all-tournament team selection.

"The last game of a tournament, teams are tired," Bailey said. "It's easy to just go ahead and throw it in. But the girls played with a ton of heart, a ton of passion.

"[Los Alamitos] runs a lot of motion offensively, and I think our girls had a very solid general awareness of what was going on around them. I think Alex Musselman played an outstanding game. When you've got her in the goal, you're able to take a couple of chances that otherwise you might not be able to."

Ally McCormick drew a penalty shot on the counterattack late in the third quarter and Pippa Saunders converted it, starting the comeback. Murphy then made a strong move at set, then scored on a counter on Saunders' pass to knot the score at 7-7 with 1:28 to play.

"I think we showed a lot of heart," Diana Murphy said. "I think we showed that we can stay with any team."

Corona del Mar (17-7) had a shot with under a minute left, but Los Al goalie Savanna Smith was just able to grab the skip shot of CdM senior Maddie Schwartz. After the Griffins called timeout, Dodson scored the winner.

A last-ditch lob shot went over the cage at the buzzer.

Murphy and Saunders each had three goals and also drew three exclusions each. Schwartz also scored, and Musselman had five saves and three steals.

The Sea Kings couldn't be upset about their sixth-place finish after playing strong against Los Al, the No. 2-seeded team in the tournament and No. 2-ranked squad in Division I. CdM also topped Vista, 14-8, in a fifth-place semifinal Saturday morning.

Cassidy Papa had six goals, and Murphy and Saunders scored four each. McCormick, who leads CdM in assists with 47, had three against Vista, and Musselman had 15 saves.

CdM has just two regular-season games left, closing out its Pacific Coast League schedule at Beckman on Wednesday before playing host to Long Beach Wilson on Friday.

"CIF is right around the corner," Bailey said. "The girls are excited; they're ready. To be honest, I think they're sad the season's almost over. They care so much about each other."

Top-seeded Dos Pueblos won the tournament for the second straight year, 13-6, over Laguna Beach. The Chargers' two-year winning streak now stands at 61 games.

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