Estancia girls' water polo wants more in 2012

COSTA MESA — Estancia High senior team captain Alexis Paul is a rarity in high school water polo: a player who has been the starting varsity goalie for all four years.

There also aren't too many left-handers who play goalie. Paul is one of those, too.

But more than anything, she is one of a group of determined seniors for the Eagles. They want to improve upon last year, when they finished fourth in the Orange Coast League and missed the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

"I think we'll get pretty high up," Paul said. "We'll probably get second, hopefully. I think we will."

Estancia certainly looked good Wednesday. Senior Ilene Umansky scored nine goals as the Eagles overpowered Westminster, 21-2, in a nonleague home match.

Umansky, a Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection who scored a school-single-season-record 119 goals last year, is back to her old tricks. She now has 57 goals, tops in Orange County.

But Coach Jennifer Broderick's Eagles, who return six of seven starters, are more balanced. Senior Danielle Ridge and junior Nikkie Blinn each scored three goals against Westminster, while senior Valery Medina and junior Abigail Garcia scored twice.

Senior Maren McClanahan and sophomore Alexis Discenzo added goals for Estancia (6-4). Paul made seven saves, adding a steal and an assist.

"Last year a lot of people were dependent on [Umansky]," said Blinn, who had a strong all-around game with five steals and two assists. "She's our strongest shooter, and probably one of the best players on our team. But there are some other strong shooters. We're trying to make everybody a shooter."

Ridge nodded in agreement.

"We don't want other teams to look at us and be like, 'Oh, [No.] 4 shoots, [No.] 9 shoots, [No.] 15 shoots,' and pick on those people," Ridge said. "We want them not to be able to find the shooter, because everyone's a shooter."

The Eagles were able to shut down Westminster (0-4). Estancia jumped out to a 6-0 lead after one quarter, already registering seven steals. Westminster could not get a shot on goal until early in the second quarter.

Estancia led, 13-1, at halftime. Broderick was able to give the team's three sophomores — Discenzo, Natalie Smith and Jenna Rutledge — more playing time in the second half.

"We have a deeper bench now," Broderick said. "We have three sophomores and a couple of extra people on the bench every game now. Our numbers, just as a school, are bigger this year. We have subs on both levels, and there has been years in the past when that has not been the case."

Umansky had four steals and drew three exclusions and a penalty shot for Estancia, which converted all three of its six-on-five opportunities.

Paul said she was was happy with the team's defense Wednesday. Medina, who had five steals, has stepped in as the primary center defender following the graduation of Vanessa Rodriguez.

"As a team we've gotten a lot better, and closer together too," Paul said.

Estancia plays Santa Ana at home on Thursday, then is off until beginning play in the Falcon tournament on Jan. 7 at Orange High.

The Eagles play host to crosstown rival Costa Mesa in their league opener Jan. 16. They've never beaten the Mustangs in league. Last year, Estancia suffered close losses to both second-place Costa Mesa and third-place Godinez.

"[The seniors are] really looking to have a good senior year. They definitely want to get into CIF and be successful."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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