CORONA DEL MAR — The Santa Barbara defense gave Corona del Mar High girls' water polo junior Genevieve Weed a bit of space Saturday afternoon.
Time was running down in the nonleague game at CdM, the host Sea Kings clinging to a one-goal lead. The shot was there for Weed if she wanted to take it.
Not only did she take the straightaway shot from just outside five meters, she buried it into the upper-left corner. In one moment, the dedication Weed had showed in the offseason paid off.
The Sea Kings would definitely take the goal, the final one of the game. It gave them a bit of breathing room in a 7-5 victory.
It was Weed's second goal of the game, which tied for the team-high. She also led CdM (2-0) with a pair of steals.
Corona del Mar, ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division I, is a team with five certifiable standouts returning from last year. Teams still can't look past Weed, the first-year starter.
"She's progressed the furthest in the offseason," CdM Coach Sam Bailey said. "She's got a great arm, she's got really strong legs, she's athletic. I think one thing that's especially impressive is her smarts. She's at least a 4.0 [grade-point average] student, she takes AP classes. Academically, she gets it done, and her intuition and ability to process the game really make her a valuable component to both our offense and our defense."
Weed helped CdM beat their second straight Santa Barbara-area foe, after ending three-time defending Division I champion Dos Pueblos' 68-game winning streak Friday night.
Santa Barbara (0-2) is also a tough opponent. The Dons are ranked No. 3 in Division I. Saturday's game was a rematch of last year's Division I quarterfinal, won by CdM, 10-5.
Juniors Ally McCormick and Cassidy Papa had taken their SAT test at CdM on Saturday morning. They still stayed hot in the pool. McCormick scored the first two goals of the game for the Sea Kings, who then outscored the Dons, 4-1, in the second quarter to take a 6-3 halftime lead.
Papa scored twice in the second, while Weed and Cal-bound senior Pippa Saunders (penalty shot) added goals.
Santa Barbara Coach Mark Walsh was frustrated late in the half when a pass went into the end line on the Dons' six-on-five, causing a turnover. Walsh dropped the ball he was holding and simply crossed his arms.
Both teams ended up frustrated on their six-on-fives, as the Sea Kings and Dons both converted just one of seven opportunities. Santa Barbara's misses in the second half seemed more important as they tried to get back in the game.
CdM senior goalie Alex Musselman played a big role in the Dons' frustrations, making 17 saves. She said the team remained focused, even after the big win Friday against Dos Pueblos.
"We treat every game like a championship game," the UCLA-bound Musselman said. "After we won [Friday] night, it was cool, and we were stoked that we won, but then we had to start preparing right there for our next game. We know that Santa Barbara's a very big driving team, they're fast. We're a big counter team, too, so we practice the counter every single day. When we're playing each other, we're practicing countering and defending the counter."
Santa Barbara did not go away. Kelsey O'Brien scored two quick goals in succession in the third quarter, bringing her team within 6-5. But Santa Barbara couldn't convert three more power-play opportunities in the ensuing minutes, until Weed's second goal proved big.
"I really needed to step up to fill positions that we lost from our seniors last year," Weed said. "Since I've recently become a starter, people don't know how good a shot I have. I've been working on that a lot. I've been working on being confident, stepping in and just going for it."
Diana Murphy, Victoria Pierotti and Avery Warwick all had steals for CdM. The Sea Kings have enjoyed a better start to the season than last year, when they went up north and lost their first two games to the same two teams, Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara.
"Momentum's definitely important, but it's a long season.," Bailey said. "You'd like to think that that you're going to be able to win every game, but you've got to expect at times that things aren't going to be clicking. There's going to be some bumps along the road. But any time that you can split, go 1-1 with the Santa Barbara schools, I think that's a good thing. It's just so early [in the season]. We'll see what happens."
Corona del Mar did better than split. The Sea Kings do have momentum, though they play just one game in the next 26 days. CdM doesn't play again until the Battle of the Bay at Newport Harbor on Dec. 16. Then, it's nearly two more full weeks until the Holiday Cup on Dec. 30-31.
Bailey said its important that his team stays focused in practice for the rest of the month. Weed said she doesn't expect that to be a problem.
"We know we have a target on our back," she said. "Everyone wants to be No. 1, and people are going to keep coming after us. We just have to keep working hard, so that we can keep up with other teams that are preparing just as hard as we are."
"We've been looking forward to this year forever," Musselman said. "I think we're just embracing every moment. We're working as hard as we can, because we've wanted this for so long."