COSTA MESA — The Costa Mesa High girls' water polo team played the first CIF Southern Section playoff game in the Mustangs' 50-meter pool Tuesday.
The Mustangs had a sizable crowd, including cheerleaders, on hand.
Jolene Guiliana stole the show.
The Beckman High senior scored 10 times for the visiting Patriots, who posted a 17-7 victory in the Division I wild-card match. Mesa's season ends with a 15-14 record.
Guiliana did not surprise the Mustangs by scoring her season-high in goals, only adding to her Orange County-leading total of 142. But she also had six steals, helping lead what was at times a relentless Patriots defense.
On the rare occasions she missed a shot, she swam in to pressure Costa Mesa junior goalie Claudine Le or senior defender Monica Folkerts. Other times, Guiliana was at the top of the press defense, able to swim back for several easy counterattack goals after a teammate made a steal.
"It was basically whenever someone had the ball, just jump on them," said Guiliana, who is being recruited by UC San Diego among other schools. "If the goalie looks like she's not going to swim it out and she's going to stay in front of the goal, then press her so that she won't make a good pass out."
Beckman (16-13), which plays No. 2-seeded Los Alamitos in a first-round match today at Newport Harbor High, had reason to be fired up. Guiliana said it's the first time in her four varsity seasons that the Patriots have made the playoffs.
The Mustangs were in the game early. With 1:17 left in the opening quarter, junior Alicia Rederscheid found sophomore Aubry Hill open on the left. Hill put it away, cutting Beckman's advantage to 3-1.
But the Patriots, an at-large team from the Pacific Coast League, would score three times in the final 63 seconds of the quarter.
After Mesa sophomore Kellie Thorsness scored on the six-on-five early in the second quarter, Beckman then rattled off four straight goals to take a commanding 10-2 lead. Three of those were by Guiliana, who already had eight goals at halftime. Of her 10 goals, two came on penalty shots that she drew, then converted.
"They were really physical and we didn't match their physicality," Mustangs Coach Tim Postiff said. "They were really aggressive, pressing the goalie and everything else. Our kids were just taking off to counter and not paying attention to what was going on."
Senior Ashley DeMarzo and Thorsness each had two goals for the Mustangs, who also received single goals from seniors Taylor Ives and Nicole Tfaye. Senior Sydney Rosello was held scoreless, barring out on at least three shots, but had two assists and drew five exclusions.
Le made nine saves for the Mustangs, in their first year in Division I.
Erin Noguchi and Amy Wolf each scored twice for Beckman.
"I think it was an awakening for all our kids, to see the level of play in Division I," Postiff said. "It's a good experience for them. I felt like they played a better second half. The second half was 6-4, and that's because we matched their physicality. It wasn't until the last three minutes of the game that they put in their younger kids."
After it was over, DeMarzo said there were plenty of tears shed in the locker room. The strong six-member senior class led Mesa to a second-place finish in the Orange Coast League, and back to the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons.
DeMarzo talked about how she transferred from Newport Harbor after her freshman year.
"My sophomore year, I came into this amazing group of girls," she said. "They just accepted me for who I was; they didn't ask any questions. I think all of us are just sad that it's ending. When we didn't have a pool, it was a struggle, and everything that we worked so hard for is over now.
"It kind of leaves an empty feeling. This was our home for so long, so it's really sad it's finally ending."