Sailors to take on Foothill

NEWPORT BEACH — On the first day of the Holiday Cup, the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team didn't have any issues.

Coach Bill Barnett had no complaints, except that his back hurt after leaving his poolside chair Friday. Barnett sat for most of the action while his Sailors got off 31 goals in the first two games at home.

"It was a good team effort," Barnett said after Newport Harbor advanced to Saturday's semifinals. "I'm glad we got two wins."

Each victory looked easy for the Sailors. Barnett knows that won't be the case when the Sailors (5-1) face Foothill (9-1) in the semis at 10:40 a.m.

The two teams met on Dec. 9, with Newport Harbor pulling off a 13-11 upset on the road. The Sailors won without standout Maddy McLaren, who was out of town.

McLaren is back and she's been averaging almost three goals a game since her return to Newport Harbor, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll.

The UCLA-bound senior helped Newport Harbor open the tournament in the morning with a 16-5 victory against Palos Verdes. In the afternoon, she and the Sailors pounded Santa Margarita, 15-5.

McLaren was one of 10 Sailors finding the back of the net, the two that didn't were the team's goalies.

For the day, McLaren and Avery Peterson led Newport Harbor with seven goals each. McLaren might have had more if not for picking up her third exclusion with less than two minutes left to play in the third quarter against Santa Margarita.

While McLaren came out of the water, her father, Matt, sitting in the stands, told one of the officials, "See that on both ends." The two talked for a minute, but Newport Harbor no longer needed McLaren's services.

The team was in full control with an 11-3 lead, thanks to McLaren's fifth goal coming almost two minutes before she exited. McLaren ended a run by Santa Margarita, which opened the second half with three straight goals.

The Sailors let up a little and Barnett said the play got sloppy. They played at a high level in the first half, jumping out to a 10-0 lead, getting two goals from Carly Christian in the second quarter and one by Allyson Hall.

The first-half score was almost identical to that of the opener against Palos Verdes. Newport Harbor will need to put together four strong quarters against Foothill, ranked No. 3, in order to advance to the finale.

Foothill knocked off the two-time defending champion Goleta Dos Pueblos, 14-9, in the quarterfinals. Barnett expects Foothill to press the Sailors, who are trying to win the tournament for the first time in six years.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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