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Winter notes: Ocean View looks to extend finals streak

STAFF REPORT

Ocean View’s Shannon Graham and Elena Isogawa will be aiming for a rare feat Wednesday when they play in the CIF-SS girls water polo semifinals.

The four-year varsity players will try to help the Seahawks reach the section finals for the fourth consecutive year.

“This group of girls has been solid ever since they started,” Ocean View coach Melissa Fernandez said.

“It has been exciting just that they’ve set that precedent and the younger (girls) are stepping up.”

The second-seeded Seahawks (25-5) take on No. 3 seed Westridge of Pasadena (22-5) on Wednesday. Ocean View beat Westridge, 17-13, in the quarterfinals last season.

The match will be played at Santa Ana Valley at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Division 6 semifinal between top-seeded Santa Monica (28-3) and Cabrillo of Lompoc (21-8) at 7.

Isogawa is an attacker who excels at outside shooting (she has 79 goals) and passing.

“Elena, when she came in as a freshman, already had the skills and maturity better than most,” Fernandez said. “That’s been a huge help.”

Graham, a center with 134 goals, steadily improved her first three years until she made a major leap last offseason.

“She really turned a corner and has started learning how to use her size and her strength,” Fernandez said of Graham, who scored seven goals and drew two penalties in a 10-4 victory against Temescal Canyon of Lake Elsinore in the quarterfinals Saturday. “She definitely had a breakout season.”

Other players have improved, too. Junior goalie Ieva Vaiciunas emerged as a strong replacement for Alyssa Welfringer, now playing at Chapman. Left-handed attacker Kari Lane, a junior, and senior 2-meter defender Kasey Tippy also emerged as key contributors.

Ocean View is seeking its first CIF title. The Seahawks lost in the Division 7 final in 2013 and 2014 and were the Division 6 runner-up last season.

“We’ll have to play our best games from here on out,” Graham said. “We don’t have anything to lose.”

The Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine will play host to the Division 1, 2 and 3 semifinals on Wednesday, starting at 3:30 p.m. Mission Viejo (25-6) plays Riverside Poly in the Division 4 semifinals at Diamond Bar at 5:30 p.m.

- DAN ALBANO

BOYS SOCCER

Orange boys soccer coach Victor Esparza had a feeling the Panthers were ready for a breakthrough this season when 60 players showed up for this past summer’s training program.

Usually, he said, 30 kids take part in the summer program.

“I have a good group of boys,” Esparza said. “I saw something special in them this season.”

The Panthers, who once struggled to get out of last place in the Golden West League, will play host to top-seeded Long Beach Cabrillo (20-4-5) on Wednesday in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs. Game time is 5 p.m.

This is the first time in more than a decade the Panthers (11-7-3) qualified for the postseason. They did it with three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting 11.

In their first-round game Friday, the Panthers took Crestview League champion Esperanza to penalty kicks after playing to a scoreless tie. Orange advanced on penalty kicks, 5-3.

“Our game on Friday was the most intense game I’ve ever been a part of,” Esparza said.

Esparza said he was so nervous he couldn’t watch the PKs, keeping his head down and listening to the crowd’s reaction.

“It was awesome to see our fans and kids celebrating,” Esparza said. “We had our principal, two vice principals, athletic director and several teachers there. I am honored to be able to guide this group of boys onto the field.”

- DAMIAN DOTTORE

GIRLS SOCCER

It’s not often a goalkeeper plays a major role on offense, but it happened last week for Foothill’s girls soccer team in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs.

Goalkeepr Miki Ratsula made six saves while shutting out El Toro (15-3-5) through regulation and two periods of extra time to send the game to penalty kicks.

Foothill (12-9-4) edged the Chargers, 3-2, in the shootout with one of the penalty kicks coming from Ratsula. Gabi Juarez and Jenna Boravinski also converted their penalty kicks for the Knights. ...

San Juan Hills (12-6-4) defeated Canyon on penalty kicks, 3-1, last week, earning the program its first postseason victory. ...

Aliso Niguel (15-0-5), the top seed in Division 1, will face visting JSerra on Tuesday. The Lions (14-3-3) defeated Long Beach Millikan, 4-0, in the first round. Isabella D’Aquila had a hat-trick and Julie Doyle posted a goal and three assists. ...

Tarbut V’Torah’s Carly Malatskey had a hat-trick last week in a Division 7 first-round win over Vista del Lago of Moreno Valley, giving the Stanford signee 69 goals this season. She needs three more to tie for second on the CIF-SS list for most goals in a single season.

- ANDREW TURNERContributing writer

WRESTLING

For the second consecutive year, Fountain Valley’s Blake Vasquez has been dealt a setback, but not on the wrestling mats.

Last year, Vasquez had his appendix removed, and that kept him out of last year’s CIF-SS Masters Meet.

This year, with a 36-1 record and ranked fifth in the state, Vasquez was positioned to start his drive toward the state tournament by winning a CIF-SS title last weekend.

However, he missed the CIF-SS Southern Division Individuals after being forced into the hospital due to complications from last year’s surgery. He underwent laparoscopic surgery to clear scar tissue from blocking his intestines.

Vasquez has been cleared by his doctor to compete this weekend at the CIF Masters Meet in Ontario, but he didn’t qualify last week.

He could receive an alternate spot. Each weight class at the Masters Meet has two alternate spots, which are usually selected from the sixth-place finishers at last week’s CIF Individuals.

Those alternates are selected Friday morning.

Robert Vasquez, Blake’s father and a Fountain Valley assistant coach, said Monday that his son has received a lot of support from members of the wrestling community.

Robert Vasquez said several members of the CIF-SS Wrestling Advisory Committee told him Blake should be added to the Masters field.

There have been instances in other sections where a wrestler advanced to the next week’s competition without going through the previous week of qualification.

In one circumstance, a wrestler from Granada Hills was disqualified from the L.A. City Section championships for not having proper student ID. He was eventually placed into the CIF State Wrestling Championships.

“It is an unfortunate situation,” CIF-SS assistant commissioner Glenn Martinez said of Vasquez. “But the rules clearly states in order to participate, you have to compete and qualify at one of the six individual championships.”

- DAMIAN CALHOUN

BOYS WATER POLO

Marina water polo player Luka Karaman has committed to USC. Karaman (6-4, 180) was born in the United States but grew up in Croatia, where he played for the world-renowned Jug club in Dubrovnik.

- DAN ALBANO


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