SANTA ANA — Late Saturday afternoon, an emerging goalie at Newport Harbor High prepared to face a shootout shot against one of the better girls' field players that the Sailors have produced.
Welcome to the Futures 50 Classic, which is being played this weekend in conjunction with the Foothill Fall Fling high school girls' water polo tournament. The Futures 50 Classic is high-quality stuff, as it has four teams featuring players from all levels of the USA Water Polo Women's National Teams.
The emerging goalie was Newport Harbor junior Carlee Kapana. The field player was Kaleigh Gilchrist (class of 2010), who helped lead USC to the NCAA Championship last spring.
Kapana ranged to her left to block Gilchrist's shot, helping her team, "Team Beijing," earn a 13-11 shootout victory at Foothill High.
"I wanted to be in," Kapana said after the game. "I love the pressure of shootouts. I'm so glad [Team Beijing Coach Casey Greenawalt] put me in ... After the first block, it really gets your adrenaline pumping."
But it is Gilchrist who will be playing for first place in the tournament on Sunday.
Gilchrist's team, "Team London," advanced to the title match after going 2-1 in pool play. Team London, captained by Olympian and former Laguna Beach High standout Annika Dries, will face "Team Sydney" in the title match at 11:55 a.m. Sunday back at Foothill High. Team Sydney is captained by Olympic goalie Betsey Armstrong.
Kapana's Team Beijing will play "Team Athens" for third place at 10:40 a.m. Each team finished 1-2 in pool play, after Team Athens fell to Team Sydney, 9-6, on Saturday night.
Team Beijing also features UC Irvine's McKenna Mitchell. Team Athens features Corona del Mar High sophomore Maddie Musselman, as well as Newport Beach resident Danielle Warde (UC Irvine).
There's a lot of local talent in the Futures 50 tournament, for sure. Kapana, who has been splitting time in goal for Team Beijing throughout the tournament with former Indiana goalie Cassie Wykoff, has played well on the big stage. That was also true recently when she and Musselman helped the U.S. Women's Youth National Team win the UANA Youth Pan American Championship in Argentina.
Kapana entered in the second half of Saturday's final pool-play game and made six saves, as Team Beijing rallied from a 7-3 halftime deficit. Team captain Kiley Neushul tied the score at 10-10 with 15 seconds left in regulation.
Kapana made two blocks in the shootout, also blocking a shot by Emily Greenwood.
Gilchrist's Team London had already qualified for the final prior to the loss, as it won its first two pool-play games. Team London beat Team Athens, 8-5, on Saturday morning. Gilchrist led everyone in that game with four goals.
Gilchrist, a team captain at USC who will be a senior, said the Trojans just started their 20-hours-a-week program on Monday. They are gearing up to defend their national title.
"I think after winning, you kind of realize how awesome it is," Gilchrist said. "It just pushes you that much more. We've definitely been training hard this off-season."
The teams at the Futures 50 Classic did not practice together prior to the tournament, but Gilchrist's Team London seems to be playing well together.
"I think one of our strengths is definitely our communication and unity," she said. "Even though we've only played three games together, we have a lot of similar backgrounds, and I know some of the girls have played together on former teams. It's pretty fun ... [the tournament] gives us some off-season competition. It's nice to play with girls that you don't usually play with and have a high competition level, and compete for first place. [It's] bragging rights."
Musselman scored twice in Team Athens' 8-5 loss to Team London earlier Saturday. The captain for Team Athens is Maggie Steffens, the MVP at the 2012 London Olympics.
In the other earlier Saturday game, Team Sydney beat Team Beijing, 6-5. Warde scored once for Team Beijing and Kapana made seven saves in the second half.