PALOS VERDES — For the first four-and-a-half minutes Saturday of a CIF Southern Section Division 1 girls water polo quarterfinal, Newport Harbor was struggling to solve the puzzle that was Palos Verdes junior goalie Carley Radov.
The Sailors could not seem to find a seam against the long-armed, quick-reacting goalie. Lobs hit the crossbar, hard shots found her fingers, even pump-fake shot attempts didn't work.
But with 3:29 left in the first quarter, Newport Harbor patiently found a way to crack the code that was Radov, who made 11 saves, thanks to a goal by Avery Peterson. Once that happened, a flood of scoring overcame the Sea Kings — including an 8-0 run that put away a 15-6 win.
The Sailors (25-4) extended their winning streak to 14 games. They are the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and the Sunset League champions. They have taken one step closer to a CIF title.
Newport Harbor's coaches said the team, which trailed quickly 3-0, will have to play a bit better, despite the high-scoring efforts on the road.
The next game is a tough one, at 4:30 p.m. against Laguna Beach at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine. Newport Harbor has beaten the Breakers three times this season, 7-6 (Jan. 13), 11-10 (Jan. 27) and 7-4 (Feb. 4).
An improved effort from Saturday will be needed, the Sailors said.
"I don't think we came with the necessary intensity," Newport Harbor Coach Bill Barnett said. "If we play like we did today, we won't win our next game. I can guarantee that."
Carly Christian and UCLA-bound Maddy McLaren both scored four goals to lead the Sailors.
"I was a little scared," Christian said of being down 3-0. "But I knew my team would pull through with me. It was really hard figuring that goalie out, because every time you thought you had a shot, she'd be right there. You had to fake her out a bit and blast it through the goal."
Radov, who was pulled in the fourth quarter after allowing the eight straight goals, still saw the bright side of a good early effort for Palos Verdes (19-10).
"We had nothing to lose," Radov said. "I didn't expect anything less. We knew we could play with them, we just had to believe in ourselves."
Newport Harbor did not take its first lead until Allyson Hall scored with 1:17 left in the second quarter. Elissia Schilling was able to swim uncontested, which set up Hall's goal deep in the Sea Kings' defensive zone and right in front of Radov. Christian's pump fake led to another goal a minute later for a 6-4 halftime lead.
"We didn't shoot the ball well early," Barnett said.
After Sea Kings attacker Ellie D'Ambra cut the score to 6-5 with an early third-quarter lob over Sailors goalie Cleo Harrington, Newport Harbor began its game-clinching run.
Michigan-bound Presley Pender was open along the left flank and scored from within three meters. McLaren scored on a five-meter penalty shot with 3:13 left. Christian followed with two goals in a row, including a back-hander on a power play.
Hall scored less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, McLaren scored two more in a row. Harrington finished with five saves.
"We were kind of stressed out and not really playing our game," McLaren said. "We had to calm down."