Girls' Water Polo: Corona del Mar upsets Foothill, 10-9, advances to CIF final

IRVINE — The late UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden is quoted as saying, "The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team."

Some people outside of the team, fairly or unfairly, have called the Corona del Mar High girls' water polo team a team of individuals at points this season. The Sea Kings, struggling to find their chemistry at times, never made it to the finals of any of the three in-season tournaments.

But CdM Coach Sam Bailey, a UCLA alumnus, believes in the legendary Wooden and his "Pyramid of Success."

Now Bailey again has the Sea Kings one match away from the top of the Southern California girls' water polo pyramid.

Senior Ioanna Haralabidis scored the game-winning six-on-five goal with 41 seconds left in overtime as No. 3-seeded CdM upset No. 2 Foothill, 10-9, in a frantic CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal Wednesday night at Woollett Aquatics Center.

Corona del Mar (26-4) will play Back Bay rival Newport Harbor in the Division 1 final for the second straight year Saturday night back at Woollett. The No. 4 Sailors upset top-seeded Santa Barbara, 8-5, in the second semifinal Wednesday.

Both squads will need a team effort to achieve that stardom. CdM got there in the final minute of overtime, after senior Ally McCormick drew an exclusion on a counterattack with 58 seconds left. The Sea Kings called timeout to set up a play.

Senior co-captain Cassidy Papa walked the ball in before finding Haralabidis at the left post. And Haralabidis, speaking after the game, certainly sounded nothing like just an individual.

"I believed in Cassidy, I believed in [senior] Gen [Weed], I believed in all of them," Haralabidis said. "When I was sitting there waiting for her to give me that pass, I knew that she would give it to me. We trust each other. We love each other ... That shot wasn't only me. It was Cassidy, it was Gen, it was all of us. If it weren't for Gen faking, if it weren't for Marina [Coskinas] at the post pushing the defender out of my way, I could have never put that goal in. It's a team effort."

It certainly was that for CdM, which played without freshman standout Maddie Musselman (broken wrist). The Sea Kings had to rally from a 6-3 deficit in the third quarter. Foothill (25-4) took the three-goal lead after senior Brenna Thomas scored a six-on-five goal.

But the Sea Kings rallied. First it was Haralabidis on the power play, then McCormick with a spectacular lob shot from eight meters with the shot clock running down. After Coskinas scored falling away from set with 6:32 left in the fourth quarter, the score was suddenly tied.

"We've been down in every big game this season, so 6-3 was nothing new to us," Papa said. "We just knew that we had the conditioning and the ability to come back. We knew that six-on-five was going to be a big factor in this game, and we were finally finding the open opportunities and finishing."

Foothill's Hannah Lapkin gave the Knights the lead back, but Stephania Haralabidis (a team-high four goals) scored a power-play goal to tie the score again at 7-7. Foothill senior Nikki Stansfield fouled out on the play, frustrating Coach Jeff Colton. Stansfield is the Knights' leading scorer.

"It was a very poor and inconsistent [officiated] game," Colton said. "Nikki's third ejection, she got kicked out of the game for pushing. It's not a foul to push somebody, no one's called it the whole year, and then it puts our best player out of the game. [It's frustrating] especially when they're doing the same thing, and we're not getting those calls. That's the only way they scored. Over half their goals were on six-on-five ... I'm frustrated with the refereeing, but it takes nothing away from the fact that [CdM] came and they played well."

Foothill sophomore Cana Manzella (also four goals) scored from set to again give Foothill the lead, but Stephania Haralabidis skipped in another power-play shot from the right to again knot the score with 3:15 left.

CdM went six for 11 on the power play; Foothill was four for eight.

Sea Kings senior goalkeeper Erica Weed, a co-captain, made 10 saves. None was bigger than when she stuffed Foothill's Katy Schnieder near the left post late in the fourth quarter. She then fed Stephania Haralabidis, who scored on the counterattack to give CdM a 9-8 lead with 1:21 left.

The Knights sent it to overtime as Thomas skipped in a shot with 46 seconds left as a power play was ending.

After Ioanna Haralabidis' goal in the second three-minute overtime, Foothill set up a play. But Manzella was pushed out with physical defense from Stephania Haralabidis, and her shot was easily handled by Erica Weed.

"It's like the refs in the Super Bowl [saying], 'We're not going to call a foul to decide the game,'" Colton said. " It was a normal foul the whole game, and all of a sudden there's 15 seconds left and they don't want to call that foul."

Ioanna Haralabidis drew at least four exclusions for CdM, and senior Morgan Stewart stepped up offensively and defensively in Musselman's absence. McCormick also drew at least three exclusions for CdM, which started putting away more of those chances in the second half.

At times late, the game was played at a frantic pace. It was third straight year Foothill and CdM had played in the semifinals. Amazingly, all three games went to overtime.

"The girls just stuck with what they do best," Bailey said. "We've always talked about being a team of action. If we're going to make mistakes, we're going to make mistakes because we're doing too much or we're trying too hard. The girls care so much about each other, care so much about the program.

"I think each one of these girls will remember this game for the rest of their lives, and deservedly so."

They will remember how they accomplished the victory as a team.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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