Girls' Water Polo: Eagles clinch playoff berth

SANTA ANA — Out in the cold for three straight hours, Jennifer Broderick tried to flee her Estancia High girls' team when time expired.

She wanted to get warm.

She didn't get far on Thursday.

Players grabbed the coach, helped her take off her boots, and then threw her into the pool. She found out the warmest place to be was in the water.

"Very refreshing!" Broderick said of how she felt after she climbed out of the heated pool, with her jeans, sweater and socks soaked.

The last time Broderick celebrated by splashing around in the water with her clothes on was two years ago. It was about time, she says, she did so again.

Broderick has led the Eagles back to the CIF Southern Section playoffs after they missed the postseason last season. To return, they had to win twice in a three-hour span at Segerstrom High.

Each time, Estancia pulled out nail biters. The one that secured the Orange Coast League's third guaranteed playoff berth was a 5-4 win against Saddleback.

It wasn't easy, neither was the contest to advance to the league's third-place playoff game against Saddleback. The Roadrunners showed up to the pool, waiting to see whom they would face, Godinez or Estancia.

Ilene Umansky made sure it was the Eagles. The senior recorded five goals in Estancia's 8-7 triumph against Godinez, including the game-winner with a minute left.

In the playoff clincher against Saddleback, Umansky produced four of the team's five goals.

"I'm really excited, but I know my coach is extremely excited," Umansky said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm playing for her, to make her happy."

Umansky made up for not being able to play in the Eagles' previous postseason appearance. The stomach flu kept her out of the wild-card match.

She's healthy now and she plans to play next week, when the Eagles open the Division 1 playoffs. They expect to be at full strength.

Broderick said Estancia played without Nikkie Blinn, who had her wisdom teeth pulled out on Thursday morning.

"She had a surgery scheduled and it couldn't be rescheduled," Broderick said. "We didn't know we would be playing today."

Broderick learned on Wednesday that her team's season was still alive, barely.

Estancia won its first league contest, a 10-3 decision against Saddleback, and forced a three-way tie for third place. With three teams at 1-3 in league, only one could earn the league's No. 3 postseason entry.

For the second time in a 24-hour span, the Eagles had to get past Saddleback again. They weren't at home this time. Instead, they played at a neutral site, inside a larger pool.

The game turned out to be a lot closer than the one the day before.

Jessica Fotiades gave the Roadrunners the lead 1 1/2 minutes into the game. Then Umansky, who finished with three goals against Saddleback on Wednesday, scored the next three goals, giving Estancia its biggest lead.

Saddleback answered in the second period, getting goals from Fotiades and Sierra Siebert to tie it at 3-3. With 1:36 left before halftime, on a power-play opportunity, the Eagles regained the lead with a goal by Abbey Garcia.

In the second half, goalie Alexis Paul saved Estancia. The senior made three big saves during a two-minute stretch in the third period. She stopped Siebert from close range, Ana Montoya on a penalty shot, and then Fotiades from the right side.

Paul said she had a feeling the Roadrunners would be coming at her hard. She made a dozen saves against them the day before.

Umansky protected Paul, moving down low to guard Siebert, the Roadrunners' most physical threat. Umansky also gave the Eagles a two-goal cushion when she scored on a breakaway midway through the third period.

"We figured some of us would be tired [after the first game]," Paul said. "We actually pulled it off pretty well."

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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