CdM, Newport ready for JOs

Both the CdM Aquatics and Newport Water Polo Foundation 18-and-under girls' water polo teams have reasons for optimism headed into the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics.

CdM is coming off a title at the California High School State Championships on July 24. Newport will have its best returning player, incoming senior Maddy McLaren, back for JOs.

The optimism is good because the local squads typically find the four-day tournament, which begins Thursday at pools around Orange County, a bit challenging. They are two of the few essentially high school teams in the draw, going up against all-star clubs. Both ninth-seeded CdM and 10th-seeded Newport play at Beckman High on Thursday.

CdM opens against Princeton at 8 a.m., and a win would mean another match against either Falcon or San Diego Shores "B" back at Beckman at 1 p.m. Newport plays Blue Crush at 10 a.m., and with a win would play eitherStanford Red or Ohlone at 3 p.m.

Two wins Thursday and a team makes it into the platinum bracket, which means a top-24 finish among the 48 teams competing.

CdM incoming senior Pippa Saunders said she's excited about her team's progress. CdM defeated Foothill in the California State High School Championships final despite missing two of its top attackers. Junior-to-be Cassidy Papa was in Hungary training with the U.S. youth national team. Saunders said lefty Ally McCormick, another junior-to-be, has had limited availability this summer due to her job as a lifeguard in Laguna Beach.

Saunders said Papa is back with CdM for the Junior Olympics. McCormick is on the roster but may not play Saturday and Sunday.

Their absence at the state championships tournament allowed other players to step up, like incoming freshman Eliza Britt, sophomore-to-be Avery Warwick (whom Saunders said is a strong defender) and junior-to-be attackers Morgan Stewart and Genevieve Weed. Stewart had 10 goals in the tournament, second on the team.

"We're [seeded] ninth [at Junior Olympics] and it's respectable for an all-high school team, you know?" Saunders said. "I think from JO [qualifications] up until now, we've done a really great job of having everyone step up into a position to be a threat. This team's a threat, for sure.

"It was great to see a lot of the younger girls stepping up. To me, it was exactly what we needed."

CdM senior-to-be Diana Murphy scored a tournament-best 27 goals at the state championships. Alex Musselman, last year's Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year and aUCLA commit, made 69 total saves.

McLaren, who was in Hungary as well with the youth national team, is also excited for the Junior Olympics. The top scorer for Newport Harbor during last year's high school season said most of the Hungary trip was training, but the team did get to play a scrimmage against the junior Hungarian team in Budapest.

"It was almost shocking, because they played with their own refs too," McLaren said. "They literally could dunk us and basically do whatever they wanted, and we had to play very cleanly to not get kicked out. It was frustrating in the beginning, but I think overall it made us better as a team."

Newport also should be better as a team with McLaren, after placing fifth at the state championships without her. The NWPF 18s are fairly young after the high school team lost senior starters Catherine Carpenter (Stanford), goalie Sarah Wilkey (UCLA), Mary Rose Wight (UCLA) and Kailyn Obenauer (LMU) to graduation.

McLaren said the team should be at full strength during Junior Olympics, although goalie Cleo Harrington, who will be a sophomore, has been dealing with an ear infection.

"I think it's hard for us to really try to set a very accurate expectation," McLaren said. "These tournaments are more stepping stones for us, whereas for the rest of these club teams it's their last tournament of the summer. Our summer season is really just the beginning of our full season, so it's really more of a step for us than our finale."

NWPF is also fielding under-16, under-14 and under-12 teams; the under-14 team is seeded fifth. CdM has a under-14 team.

Wilkey is part of the Huntington Beach Water Polo Club U18 "Blue" team, which is seeded second.

The 18-and-under platinum division title match is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, at the Woollett Aquatics Complex in Irvine.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World