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CIF girls water polo: league-by-league primer
The CIF-SS girls water polo playoffs pairings will be released Saturday at 10 a.m., so here’s a league-by-league preview of Orange County’s contenders heading into the postseason:
Crestview (Div. 1): Foothill and center Noelle Wijnbelt (team-high 73 goals) dominated en route to a 10th consecutive league title but could be seeded fifth in challenging Division 1. Villa Park and 100-goal scorer Lyndsy Peterson finished as the runner-up to stay perfect in playoff appearances.
Empire (Div. 6): Cypress rolled to its second straight league crown to emerge as a Division 6 player. The Centurions and senior standout Sarah Smith also have won 12 consecutive league games. Second-place Tustin is led by a swift counterattack and sophomore goalie Kalypso Fish, who plays club for SOCAL. Valencia grabbed third.
Freeway (Div. 3): Troy captured its sixth straight league crown on Thursday night by defeating runner-up La Habra, 9-6. The Warriors are a well-balanced and experienced team that could land the No. 3 seed. Promising junior lefty Claire Schade leads Troy with 96 goals. Third-place Sunny Hills is paced by Kendall Smith (134 goals). The Lancers will make their 18th consecutive postseason appearance. La Habra and goalie Maddi Garcia play strong defense.
Garden Grove (Div. 7): The Argos recaptured the league for their 12th title in 15 years of water polo. Los Amigos and Bolsa qualified second-third. The league didn’t have a team ranked in this week’s Division 7 poll.
Golden West (Div. 6): The Seahawks stormed to their second consecutive title behind the center-attacker duo of Shannon Graham and Elena Isogawa. Look for Ocean View to earn the No. 2 seed behind a swift Santa Monica (26-3). Segerstrom and Loara finished second-third for the second consecutive winter.
North Hills (Div. 5): Esperanza took a second consecutive title but isn't ranked in the division. Sedona Sinclair leads the Aztecs with 272 saves. Brea finished second.
Orange (Div. 7): The league champion Falcons (15-14) appear to be the county’s top contender in Division 7. They were ranked eighth in the last division poll. Savanna finished second but lost to Santa Ana Valley, 13-2, in the second round of league. The teams' first round match was close. Jawni Prunchak anchors the Rebels with 78 goals and 74 steals.
Orange Coast (Div. 1): Laguna Beach moved back to No. 1 in Division 1 after capturing the recent Irvine SoCal Champs. Expect the two-time defending Division 1 champions to also be seeded No. 1 in Division 1. Freshman Sophie Leggett leads Laguna Beach with 70 goals while lefty Bella Baldridge is second with 66. But the Breakers’ strength is on the counter and defense, both of which start with goalie Holly Parker. Costa Mesa and junior goalie Michelle Vu (287 saves) finished second. Saddleback and center Aisley Martinez (69 goals) placed third.
Pacific Coast (Div. 1): Coach Kevin Ricks took their reins at CdM and the Sea Queens delivered a solid regular season. They won another league title and finished fifth at the SoCal Champs. Junior attacker Jaleh Moaddeli emerged late in the season as a county standout. Heidi Ritner gives the Sea Queens a true stopper in the cage. Could CdM face San Marcos one more time? It could happen in the quarters. Beckman and Irvine placed second-third.
Sea View (Div. 4): Mission Viejo dominated and could land the No. 2 seed after a strong showing against Santa Margarita on Thursday. Skylar Newhouser-Flores paces the Diablos with 115 goals. Sophomore Christina Doherty scored 141 goals to help Trabuco Hills place second. The Mustangs beat Capo Valley in a playoff for the league’s No. 2 seed.
South Coast (Div. 2): Defending Division 2 champ El Toro won the title and probably grabs the No. 2 seed to Murrieta Valley. The Chargers, however, went 0-3 against MV during the season. Runner-up San Clemente and center Amber McCutcheon (113 goals) could get their chance at Murrieta Valley in the semifinals. Dana Hills and Sydney Baba (120) placed a competitive third.
Sunset (Div. 1) : Los Al recaptured the title in Coach Dave Carlson’s return but weren’t ranked in Division 1 earlier this week. With Carlson guiding their defense and a movement-based offense, teams shouldn’t look past Los Al. Newport and Huntington placed second-third. The Sailors played a difficult schedule and lost several close games. The Oilers are an emerging contender with a strong 2-meter attack and top goalie in Marina Hyham.
Trinity (Div. 1): Orange Lutheran captured a second straight league crown and end the regular season as the county’s top-ranked team. But the Lancers and the duo Emma Skelly (81 goals) and Kelsey Tyler (69 goals, 85 assists) appear headed toward a No. 2 seed in Division 1. Mater Dei placed second and could be a darkhorse. Santa Margarita and Bella Baia (82 goals) placed third.