Girls' Water Polo: CdM hangs on for victory

GOLETA — The Corona del Mar High girls' water polo team has lots of new pieces this year, more than one might expect from a team that is top-ranked in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 coaches' poll.

But playing far away from home without three of their best players, the Sea Kings showed Friday night that they probably deserve that spot.

Senior Ally McCormick and sophomore Eliza Britt each scored three goals as CdM hung on to beat No. 7-ranked Dos Pueblos, 11-10, in the season opener for both teams.

Britt is one of the new pieces this year for CdM. She was pushed into a starting spot as the Sea Kings are without Stanford-bound senior Cassidy Papa and USC-bound seniors Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis. Papa and the Greek twins are concluding play this weekend at the FINA Youth World Championships in Australia.

CdM Coach Sam Bailey could go right down the list after Friday's win. The only three players in the water with significant varsity experience were McCormick, senior defender Genevieve Weed and senior attacker Morgan Stewart. This was the first big game for players like juniors Bobbi Hoose and Annie Mortimer, sophomores Grace Morgan and Britt, freshman Maddie Musselman and senior goalie Erica Weed.

"There's a lot of responsibility," Britt said. "A lot of opportunities to step up."

She did so at the start of the match, burying shots from the outside on CdM's first two possessions. It was part of a strong start as the Sea Kings grabbed a 9-3 halftime advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Dos Pueblos nearly came all the way back. It was déjà vu for the Sea Kings, who had to survive a similar rally to dethrone the Chargers, 9-6, in overtime, last year on the road in the Division 1 quarterfinals.

Jamie Neushul again helped lead the charge Friday. The Stanford-bound senior scored a game-high six goals for Dos Pueblos.

"I think we got a little complacent," McCormick said. "We came out really strong, and once we got that lead we stopped driving and moving in general."

McCormick's goal from up top gave CdM an 11-7 lead with 3:31 left in the game. Dos Pueblos again did not stop.

Neushul scored on a penalty shot, before junior Shannon Cleary scored with 1:25 left to cut the deficit to two. Then Dos Pueblos goalie Britten Vilander fed Neushul on a long pass after making a save. Neushul spun around the defender and scored with a minute left.

CdM had to dump the ball on its next possession. Dos Pueblos played the ball into Cleary, but she was unable to get a shot off with three players in the area. Dos Pueblos Coach Chris Parrish was irate, clearly believing that Cleary had earned an exclusion.

"If you see a call, you make it," Parrish told the referee after the game. "That was gross to me."

But Musselman instead earned her sixth steal of the contest, which ended just in time for the Sea Kings.

Bailey admitted after the game that "we should have been ejected," though he also felt Musselman earned an exclusion that wasn't called earlier in the fourth quarter.

McCormick also had six steals and two assists for the Sea Kings. Genevieve Weed and Coskinas each scored twice, and Erica Weed had a stellar game with 10 saves, including one on a five-meter penalty shot. She is a new face in goal following the graduation of three-year starter Alex Musselman, Maddie's older sister.

CdM will need more strong performances as it faces Santa Barbara at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Dons, ranked No. 3 in Division 1, fell to No. 2 Foothill, 5-4, in their season opener Friday.

The Sea Kings will be missing Coskinas in Saturday's game, as she is taking her ACT test.

"I think our defense has to be a lot better," Bailey said. "If we come out and play hard and play smart like we did in the first half tonight, I think it'll be a good game."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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