All four Newport-Mesa girls' water polo programs made it to the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.
The chances of one team might have gotten a significant boost Monday.
Newport Harbor junior defender Maddy McLaren, the team's leading scorer, said she'll likely play Wednesday as the No. 4-seeded Tars (22-5) host Villa Park in the first round at 3:15 p.m.
McLaren has been out since after suffering a fractured rib and bruised collarbone Feb. 3 in an Irvine Southern California Championships second-round game against El Toro. She got back in the water for the first time Monday and said she is still a little sore but should be ready to go.
"I just took it easy," said McLaren, who has scored 56 goals this season. "But it was fine."
The Sailors, who finished second in the Sunset League to Los Alamitos, were ranked No. 3 in the final Division I poll. But they fell to the No. 4 seed because, per CIF rules, they can't be in the same half of the bracket as the No. 2-seeded Griffins.
That meant Corona del Mar (19-7) slid up a spot to the No. 3 seed. The Sea Kings, who won their 12th straight Pacific Coast League title, open at 5 p.m. Wednesday against either Esperanza or Fountain Valley. The Aztecs and Barons meet today in a wild-card match.
Costa Mesa (15-13) and Estancia (10-16) also both play in wild-card matches today. The Mustangs, who finished second in the Orange Coast League after beating their cross-town rivals, are at home against Beckman at 3:15 p.m. Third-place Estancia plays at Canyon of Anaheim at 5 p.m.
Should Mesa win, it would play at Los Alamitos in Wednesday's first round. The Eagles, with a victory, would play at top-seeded Dos Pueblos of Goleta.
CdM may face a difficult test in the quarterfinals Friday. The Sea Kings would likely play Santa Barbara, a game Coach Sam Bailey said would be at home due to an already completed coin-flip. CdM lost at Santa Barbara, 7-3, on Dec. 4.
CdM has four girls who can lead the team in scoring in any given match. Pippa Saunders leads the way for the season with 61 goals, followed by fellow junior Diana Murphy with 54. Lefty Ally McCormick has 51 goals and fellow sophomore Cassidy Papa has 48. Junior goalie Alex Musselman has earned a reputation as one of the best goalies in the section.
Across the bay, so has Newport Harbor senior Sarah Wilkey. The UCLA-bound Wilkey (270 saves) was named the Most Outstanding Goalie at the Irvine Southern California Championships, where the Sailors finished third, even without McLaren.
"We've been playing really well going into the playoffs," said Stanford-bound senior defender Catherine Carpenter. Avoiding a major upset against Villa Park, Newport Harbor would also have a tough quarterfinal Friday against Laguna Beach. Senior Kailyn Obenauer has stepped up her play and become the team's second-leading scorer with 39 goals, and the Sailors also rely on the defense of senior Mary Rose Wight.
Coach Tim Postiff said Costa Mesa, in its first year in Division I, will have a big challenge today against Beckman.
Sophomore Kellie Thorsness (46 goals) and seniors Sydney Rosello (43) and Ashley DeMarzo (42) lead Mesa.
Fourth-year Coach Jennifer Broderick led Estancia to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. Sophomore Ilene Umansky (82 goals) and senior captain Kylie Carpenter (68) lead the Eagles.