CdM bound for semis

CORONA DEL MAR — The game was delayed for about 50 minutes as both teams waited for a referee to drive down from Santa Barbara.

It was delayed further when the timing console stopped working at halftime.

The Corona del Mar High girls' water polo team just waited. Nothing was going to slow the Sea Kings down in the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinal match.

They proved it in the water, jumping on visiting Santa Barbara early and cruising to a 10-5 victory in a game played in a steady rain.

"We visualized so much, even during the extended warm-up," junior center Diana Murphy said. "By the time we were in the game, it was all muscle memory. We've been literally visualizing since the morning. We've been thinking about this game all day long."

No. 3-seeded Corona del Mar moves on to play No. 7 Foothill in a Division I semifinal Wednesday night at Irvine's Woollett Aquatics Center. Foothill stunned No. 2-seeded Los Alamitos in overtime, 11-10, in another quarterfinal game.

Corona del Mar has made at least the semifinals of CIF every year since its initial CIF appearance in 2000.

CdM (21-7), which got three goals each from Murphy and sophomores Ally McCormick and Cassidy Papa, picked a good time to play one of its best games of the season. The second quarter was when the Sea Kings put distance between themselves and the No. 6-seeded Dons (20-9).

CdM scored on two consecutive power-play opportunities, McCormick first finding Murphy then Papa. The latter goal gave the Sea Kings a 4-1 lead with 38 seconds left in the first half, a big one as Santa Barbara junior Charlotte Hendrix had just scored her team's first goal 32 seconds earlier.

Then, after Alex Musselman made one of her 11 saves, she fed McCormick on the counterattack. McCormick flipped it in and CdM was cruising, up 5-1 at halftime. Santa Barbara never got closer than three goals the rest of the game.

Coach Sam Bailey knows his defense, anchored by Musselman and senior Lauren Marks, leads to offense. The Sea Kings excelled either down or up a player, holding Santa Barbara to two for six on its power play while converting three of five opportunities themselves. CdM has struggled in many of its big games on the player advantage, but not Friday.

"Everything is integrated with six-on-five," Papa said. "Those are really good percentages. We've really been working on shot blocking, getting over our hips, every little detail of the five-on-six. I thought we did a good job of it."

CdM had lost on the road to Santa Barbara, 7-3, in a nonleague game Dec. 4. Murphy said she, Marks and senior captain Maddie Schwartz all took their SAT test that morning.

"But no excuses," Murphy said.

The Sea Kings didn't need any after the rematch. They passed one test as Papa said they tried to stay with Santa Barbara senior Makenzy Fowler and sophomore Kelsey O'Brien, who combined for just one goal. CdM rarely let the Dons get the ball into two meters.

"We improved a lot on our drop defense all season," Musselman said. "To shut down set like that was really incredible for us."

Santa Barbara sophomore goalie Maddie Trabucco also made 11 saves and Hendrix led the Dons with two goals. Santa Barbara pulled within three goals late but Marks got the final steal with 1:25 to go.

Now CdM can start thinking about Foothill. Two-time defending Division I champion Dos Pueblos, the top seed, plays Laguna Beach in the other semifinal.

"We're playing with a lot of confidence right now," Papa said. "Not cocky, but we trust every single person on this team. We know our capability and we're playing with all the confidence in the world."

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