Sea Kings stunned

IRVINE — The Corona del Mar High and Foothill girls' water polo teams both have bright futures.

Of the 14 starters in the water for Wednesday night's CIF Southern Section Division I semifinal, 11 will return next year.

But, on this night at Woollett Aquatics Center, the Knights' only senior starter still came up huge.

Lefty Kelli Boling gave her team a chance to win the game, scoring a rebound power-play goal with 55 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

The seventh-seeded Knights didn't blow their opportunity for a second straight upset.

Junior Jessie Porter scored from seven meters with 1:40 left in the second overtime period as Foothill stunned No. 3-seeded Corona del Mar, 10-9, ending the Sea Kings' season.

"We caught some breaks with balls getting deflected in, and we got a rebound," Foothill Coach Jeff Colton said. "We just caught a few breaks this game and they didn't get them. I think when you have two teams that are really close, sometimes it just comes down to that. [It's] the saying, 'Better to be lucky than good.' But they're a really good team."

CdM definitely wasn't lucky at the end. After one last timeout, the Sea Kings earned a six-on-five opportunity when Boling fouled out. Sophomore Cassidy Papa had the last chance to send the game to sudden-death, and her shot with 23 seconds left went bar down.

Bar down, but not bar in. The Sea Kings (21-8) were just down and out, as Foothill (19-10) was able to run out the clock after that.

"We got the shot," said Papa, who scored twice. "I mean, honestly, a lot of our shots we missed, hitting bars and going out … We came out super-hard, we came out with a lot of intensity. Our defense was good for the most part. They put the shots away that we were giving them to put away. They obviously executed when they were given the shot, and we didn't when we were given the shot a lot of times."

Foothill, which also upset No. 2 Los Alamitos in the quarterfinals, plays two-time defending champion and top-seeded Dos Pueblos in the final Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Dos Pueblos outlasted Laguna Beach, 14-13, in sudden-death overtime in the other semifinal.

The Sea Kings were usually up in their semifinal, but never by more than two goals. After falling behind 1-0 early, Corona del Mar didn't trail again until the first overtime period.

CdM junior goalie Alex Musselman kept her team in it, tying her season-high with 18 saves. Twelve of the saves came in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a penalty-shot save on Porter with 6:11 left in regulation.

In the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, Musselman made five saves.

"There was like four minutes where we couldn't get anything past her," Colton said. "I think she's the best goalie in high school. She's really good, and it's scary to think she's coming back. Scary for me, not for [CdM Coach] Sam [Bailey]."

Both teams scored the majority of their goals from the outside, but Foothill junior center McKenna Mitchell scored her only goal with 4:57 left in regulation to tie the score at 6-6. Fifty-four seconds later, CdM sophomore Ally McCormick scored on the counterattack to put the Sea Kings back ahead.

After Boling sent the game to overtime, CdM junior Pippa Saunders scored on a six-on-five with 1:13 left in the first overtime. But Foothill's Nicole Stansfield, then Boling scored. The Knights had a 9-8 lead, their first since the first quarter, until McCormick scored with two seconds left in that first overtime period.

But Porter's game-winning strike from seven meters, skipped into the right corner, was the only goal in the second overtime. Colton watched his team shoot considerably better than what he said was a five-for-37 showing in the teams' first meeting, a 10-5 CdM nonleague win Jan. 7.

McCormick had team-highs of three goals and four steals for CdM. Pippa Saunders had two goals and two steals, and fellow junior Victoria Pierotti also scored. Senior captain Maddie Schwartz also scored for CdM before fouling out with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter.

Papa said the Sea Kings missed Schwartz' "extra fire in the water" after that. She is also one of the team's better defenders, but CdM kept battling.

"The effort was definitely there," Musselman said. "We were playing as hard as we could and with passion. We can't really say we made a whole bunch of mistakes, because we were playing with all we had. In water polo it doesn't always go your way, even when you're playing as hard as you can. Foothill played well."

Porter scored a game-high four goals for Foothill and goalie Kelsey Roland had six saves, also including a penalty-shot block in the third quarter.

"If the goalie didn't have her hand on it, it was going to touch a bar," Bailey said. "A lot of close opportunities … We had chances the whole game. You'd like to think that you put nine goals on the scoreboard, you're going to be able to win a game. Foothill just played an outstanding game."

Nine goals, but the potential for many more. The Sea Kings hit the bar at least four times in the third quarter alone.

"I don't think any of us really have any regrets about the game," Saunders said. "We definitely played with everything we had. It just came down to actually putting the ball in the cage. We had a lot of bar-outs. I know it kind of sounds like the story of our season, but we're all really proud of ourselves."

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