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Motivated Newport Harbor shuts down Huntington Beach
A new coach guides the Newport Harbor girls water polo team, but many of the philosophies of the man who built the powerhouse program live on.
The winning hasn’t followed as frequently just yet, but the Sailors posted their biggest victory Wednesday night, making a major statement in the Sunset League.
With legendary former coach Bill Barnett watching at Newport Harbor, the No. 6 Sailors followed Barnett’s tenets of strong defense and a swift counterattack en route to a 10-3 victory against No. 7 Huntington Beach.
Newport Harbor (5-7, 2-0) used a combination of tight perimeter pressing, five field blocks and strong specialty defense to blank the Oilers (6-5, 1-1) for nearly the final three periods.
The Oilers trimmed Newport Harbor’s lead to 4-3 only 35 seconds into the second period, but the Sailors closed the game on a 6-0 run over the final 20 minutes, 25 seconds.
“Good defense comes with passion, and those girls came out tonight and they really wanted to win and they had to play good defense,” said Newport Harbor first-year coach Brian Melstrom, a former assistant coach for Barnett, who retired last year after leading the Sailors program for 49 years.
“Biggest (win) for this class of girls. … There are other big games coming up, but it gives us the confidence.”
Newport Harbor used its field blocks to slow Huntington Beach’s centers and power play.
Josie Miller and Sarah Barker blocked shots from center, and Katie Kearns and Sammie Garcia blocked power-play shots.
Huntington Beach converted its first three chances with the extra attacker, but the Sailors stopped the final seven. Newport Harbor went 1 for 2 on the power play.
Newport Harbor’s defense was so good, goalie Maddy Kanzler finished with just three saves. Jessica Lynch added a team-high four steals.
“Our main goal on defense was to definitely press,” Kearns said. “They had a lot of good looks, but luckily our defense really stepped up.”
Melstrom assigned Lissa Westerman to Julia Rozolis-Hill and primary defenders Miller and Barker to Lauren Smith.
Westerman scored three goals in the first period, including two of the Sailors’ three counterattack strikes in the frame. She finished with four goals.
“That was her coming out,” Melstrom said of Westerman, a junior slowed earlier in the season by a broken hand.
Marina Hyham led Huntington Beach with nine saves and four steals.
"I told the girls right before the end of the game, 'They beat us today. We know they did. Let's not hang our heads,' " Huntington Beach coach Mark Canner said. "We know we have a good run here (in us)."
Also in the Sunset League:
Edison 17, Marina 5: Julie Harrison collected eight goals, three assists and five steals to lead the Chargers (1-1 in league) at Newport Harbor.
In the Freeway League:
La Habra 15, Buena Park 5: Natasha Velez scored seven goals to lead the host Highlanders (2-0 in league).
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