Wilkey stars for Sailors

IRVINE — There's usually not supposed to be any running on the pool deck.

The girls on the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team ran off the deck as fast as they could late Saturday afternoon.

Hair needed to be done, and makeup applied. The Sailors needed to get ready for their winter formal at Knott's Berry Farm.

Nobody could block the exits. UCLA-bound senior Sarah Wilkey did all the blocking her team needed during the Irvine Southern California Championships.

Wilkey was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Goalie after Newport Harbor got third, defeating Santa Barbara, 8-6, in the third-place game. Stanford-bound Catherine Carpenter and fellow senior Kailyn Obenauer also made the all-tournament team for Newport Harbor.

Earlier Saturday, the Sailors lost to eventual tournament champion Dos Pueblos, 10-6, in a semifinal. Nobody could stop the Chargers, who beat Laguna Beach, 13-6, in the final. That was nothing new as it was the 61st straight win for Dos Pueblos, the two-time defending CIF Southern Section Division I champion.

But the fourth-seeded Sailors (20-5) didn't stay down after their second loss of the season to the Chargers. They came back to beat the third-seeded Dons for the second time this year.

"We just worked really well as a team," said senior Mary Rose Wight, who scored twice against Santa Barbara. "We came in fourth [in this tournament] last year and we wanted to do better. We got third this year, so we're really happy about that."

The Sailors shared the ball; Wight was the only one with more than one goal against Santa Barbara. Carpenter, Obenauer, Carly Christian, Allyson Hall, Sophie Leveque and Presley Pender all scored single goals, and Wilkey made 13 saves.

"That's perfect," Coach Bill Barnett said of the balanced scoring. "[The game] was a little ragged at times. We had Wilkey in the goal, and that was a big difference, I thought."

Newport Harbor never trailed in the second half, although Santa Barbara made it interesting when sophomore Kelsey O'Brien (three goals) scored bar-in with 4:14 left in the fourth quarter.

But then Christian made a strong drive into the middle and was found by Carpenter. Christian put it away with 3:01 left, giving the Sailors a two-goal cushion again.

Sophomore Elissia Schilling had three steals to lead the team's defensive effort.

The Sailors didn't play their best game in the morning semifinal against Dos Pueblos (25-0). They trailed, 3-1, after a quarter after a bizarre sequence where a Newport Harbor player was kicked out, then kicked out again as she entered the field of play in the wrong area.

Stanford-bound Dos Pueblos senior Kiley Neushul, open in front of the goal, scored after the second exclusion with eight seconds left in the quarter.

"We made some stupid mistakes," Barnett said, although he also gave credit to the opponent. "Their press defense was awesome. We just couldn't crack it."

The Sailors continued without their leading scorer, junior Maddy McLaren (fractured rib and bruised collarbone). Against Dos Pueblos in the third quarter, they also lost Wight to fouls. Dos Pueblos was in the midst of a four-goal run to open up an 8-3 lead and essentially put the game out of reach.

Jamie Neushul, Kiley's sophomore sister, scored three times to lead the team and Kiley Neushul, Kodi Hill and Ari St. Oegger each scored twice. Dos Pueblos senior goalie Chandler Vilander only needed to make two saves.

Schilling scored three goals and had two steals for the Sailors, who received nine saves and six steals from Wilkey. Obenauer scored twice and Carpenter also found the back of the net.

"We tried our best," Wight said. "Hopefully, we meet them again."

That remains to be seen. For most of the teams in the tournament, these were the last significant games before the CIF playoffs begin. Brackets will be released Feb. 13.

Barnett said Dos Pueblos, Los Alamitos, Santa Barbara and his Sailors — in that order — could take the top four seeds in Division I. But Laguna Beach could make a significant move up from sixth after finishing as runner-up in Irvine, although CdM is 3-0 against the Breakers this season.

"That's the only problem," Barnett said. "I don't know. It could be a toss-up."

The Sailors just hope to hit the ground running in the postseason.

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