Girls' Water Polo: Ocean View falls to Hemet in CIF title game, 6-2

IRVINE — It wasn't the ending envisioned, but it's the journey that the Ocean View High girls' water polo program will always cherish when the Seahawks look back on the season.

Ocean View played from behind the entire way of Saturday's CIF Southern Section Division 7 championship game against Hemet at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center. The top-seeded Seahawks had their dream of winning the program's first section title in the sport denied by the third-seeded Bulldogs who earned a 6-2 victory.

Hemet pulled away by scoring four-straight goals over the third and fourth quarters, to take the title.

"It's always rough to come this far, and your goal is to win, and not achieve that goal," Ocean View Coach Melissa Fernandez said. "But putting this in perspective, I can't help but think where we came from, and the achievements this team has accomplished.

"[Hemet] played good defense and their goalie had an incredible game."

Ocean View struggled to score, getting single goals in only the second and fourth quarters, but a big reason the Seahawks couldn't add more to the scoreboard was due to the play of Hemet senior goalie Tabitha Del Carmen, who registered 10 saves.

"We never have been a big scoring team, at all, but their goalie stopped a lot of our attempts today."

Freshman utility player Elena Isogawa gave Ocean View its first goal with 4:25 left in the second quarter. Her long, lob shot found its way into the back, right-side corner of the Hemet net, and it just did beat the shot clock. Isogawa's score brought the Seahawks to within 2-1.

The Bulldogs, champions of the Mountain Pass League, received scores in the first quarter from senior two-meter player Shelbi Skinner and senior defender Abigail Carpenter, to grab a 2-0 lead. They led, 2-1, at the half but pushed their advantage to 4-1 through three quarters behind goals by Carpenter and senior attacker Madalynne Carattini. Both scores came with the Bulldogs enjoying a man-up advantage.

Hemet (21-9) scored four of its six goals in six-on-five situations. The Bulldogs' high-powered offense had been proficient in three previous playoff games in which it scored 41 goals.

With 2:35 left in the game, senior two-meter player Brynne McNabb drilled a shot past Del Carmen for Ocean View's final goal.

McNabb's sister, Cami, a senior goalie, finished with six blocks.

Ocean View, which went undefeated in winning the Golden West League championship, finished the year 23-9. Saturday marked the first time a Seahawks team had played in a division final. The 5-4 semifinal win Wednesday over Beaumont was the program's first appearance in the semifinal round.

Ocean View had reached the quarterfinal round of the playoffs the previous two years and has won three consecutive league titles. The Seahawks ascended to a No. 1 ranking in the division earlier in the season and held that spot until late Saturday morning.

"This has been a resilient group of girls," Fernandez said. "The nice thing about this team, is that it has depth. That wasn't always the case with our team, but these girls have really brought this program to where it is now."

Brynne McNabb, a four-year varsity player, is one of the reasons behind Ocean View's success. So, too, is a core-group of seniors, Cami McNabb, utility Kate Bosselman, and attacker Ashley Hanson.

"This was a really awesome experience," Brynne McNabb said of the title game appearance. "It was completely nerve-wracking at the beginning [of the game] and we were really excited, and we wanted to play better than we did. But, this is an experience that this team has never had before, and I'm so proud of our team for making it to finals. We have amazing coaches and it's a great group of girls who play hard.

"It's been a great year and when I think back to where we started when I was a freshman, it's amazing. Getting a pool was amazing, too. It was during my sophomore year, and it has really helped our program."

After the game, Bosselman, another four-year player, said she reflected on the journey that led to Saturday's title game.

"Sitting there after the game, I was thinking about how it all started, going to Westminster [High] for practices," she said. "When we got our pool, we were able to have morning practices on our own campus, and it was incredible.

"I'm a little emotional right now, seeing as how this is my final game, but I'll always remember how we got here. We may have lost this game, but I'm very proud of our team, right now."

Ocean View advanced to Saturday's final by edging Chino, 5-4, Wednesday. Bosselmann scored twice and Brynne McNabb, junior Katie Du and Elena Isogawa each scored once. Cami McNabb had 10 saves.

Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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