RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA — After winning two games on the opening day of the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, both the Newport Water Polo Foundation and CdM Aquatics 18-and-under girls found themselves dropping both their platinum bracket pool-play games Friday.
This was not totally unexpected. Among the losses, CdM fell to top-seeded Santa Barbara Water Polo Club, while Newport was edged by No. 2-seeded Huntington Beach Water Polo Club "Blue."
Both local squads had the afternoon to regroup. Only CdM could do it.
Ninth-seeded CdM defeated Foothill Red, 12-6, on Friday night at Irvine's Woollett Aquatics Center. At about the same time, 10th-seeded Newport was losing to Commerce Black, 9-3, in a surprisingly lopsided game at Santa Margarita High.
CdM, which has guaranteed itself a top-12 finish at the world's largest water polo tournament, plays No. 7-seeded San Diego Shores "A" at 11 a.m. Saturday at Foothill High. Newport, which can finish no better than 13th, plays Santa Barbara "B" at noon back at Santa Margarita.
CdM also is still in contention to make Sunday morning's platinum division semifinals if it can win three straight games Saturday.
Newport Coach Bill Barnett said he was happy with the way his team played Friday morning, though both games were losses. Newport lost to San Diego Shores "A," 9-4, in its first game Friday before nearly upsetting second-seeded HBWPC, featuring former teammate and recent graduate Sarah Wilkey (UCLA). Newport's Elissia Schilling said NWPF had a six-on-five chance to tie in the fourth quarter but couldn't convert, then HBWPC put away a penalty shot on the other end. HBWPC won the game, 9-7, with Wilkey in goal.
Barnett didn't have quite the same emotions against Commerce, when he said his team came out "flat as a pancake." Barnett said Newport had beaten Commerce twice in the last week, once at the LMU Tournament and also in a Monday night game at CdM.
"They're a team with pride," Barnett said. "They don't want to lose three in a row. They've got a good program."
Instead Newport was the team that lost three in a row Friday. NWPF never led against Commerce and was held scoreless for a nearly 15-minute stretch in the middle of the game. By the time Allyson Hall scored late in the third quarter, Commerce was up, 5-1.
Hall had two goals for Newport and Carly Christian added a goal. But frustration mounted. Christian, one of the team's leading scorers, was issued a game ejection early in the fourth quarter.
"She made a statement she shouldn't have," Barnett said. "She just said that, 'I'm being held,' and you don't say that at all to the referee. It was a harmless statement, but still, you do not say it."
Presley Pender and Maddy McLaren each had two steals for Newport, and Cleo Harrington made 10 saves. Newport went scoreless in four power-play opportunities.
Laura Lopez and Gabrielle Juarez scored three goals each for Commerce, which was seeded 13th but has now earned a top 12 finish.
"They were taking smaller girls into set, which kind of killed us," McLaren said. "Then we had to drop, and then they could shoot from the outside, or they were turning our smaller girls and getting kick-outs."
CdM avoided getting kicked out of the top 12 of the tournament. Cassidy Papa scored a team-high four goals for CdM against Foothill Red in the nightcap game Friday.
In CdM's first game Friday, the squad fell to SOCAL "Black," 10-6. The score was tied heading into the fourth quarter before a rally by SOCAL, which features recent Newport Harbor graduate Catherine Carpenter (Stanford). Diana Murphy had a team-high three goals and Genevieve Weed scored twice.
CdM then came back to lose to top-seeded Santa Barbara, 14-1. Santa Barbara is an all-star club team featuring mostly recent graduates of Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos high schools, including Kiley Neushul (Stanford) and Tiera Schroeder (Cal). Santa Barbara played with just one substitute but jumped ahead early. CdM Coach Sam Bailey inserted his substitutes throughout the game, even during the first quarter.
Arizona State-bound Makenzy Fowler had a team-high four goals for Santa Barbara. Murphy scored CdM's lone goal, and Alex Musselman made seven saves.
The teams posed for a picture together after the game ended before CdM players greeted program alumna Margot Money.
"When the game's over, you look at that team and it was a great opportunity to play against some really high-level competition," Bailey said. "It's an outstanding experience for everybody. You walk away from a game like that seeing everybody who was in the pool at the end of the game was still giving it their all. [They were] taking the extra stroke on defense, not stopping short on offense, continuing with their effort. It shows a tremendous amount of heart by our entire team."
Carpenter's SOCAL "Black" team went on to upset Santa Barbara and advance to the platinum quarterfinals. SOCAL will play Diablo at 9 a.m. Saturday at Foothill.
Wilkey's Huntington Beach "Blue" team also has advanced to the quarterfinals and will play Riptides at 9 a.m. at Santa Margarita.
Yet another recent Newport grad, Kailyn Obenauer (LMU), is listed on the Huntington Beach "Orange" team that has advanced to the gold division quarters.