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Water polo title games covered in Orange
Just call it the greatest girls water polo season in Orange County history.
In many ways, that would be an accurate assessment for this 2012-13 campaign, which peaks today with the CIF-Southern Section championships in Irvine.
Orange County will be represented in five of the seven divisional finals at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.
"That's amazing," Segerstrom coach Tim Fredericksen said of the feat.
While the number of playoff divisions has expanded over the years, Orange County still crushed its single-season record of three for most divisional final appearances. Girls water polo became a CIF championship sport in 1998.
The county will not only be part of five finals today, three of the matches will be between Orange County foes.
"It definitely shows how strong the region is when it comes to water polo," said two-time Olympic medalist Natalie Golda, who played at Rosary and UCLA.
Golda attributes the success to strong high school and club programs in Orange County.
While Golda sees more depth at the high school level, the Huntington Beach Water Polo Club coach believes age-group levels for girls 12-and-under and 14-and-under could use a boost in participation.
Perhaps Orange County's five championship games Saturday will provide the inspiration for more girls to play.
"Hopefully," Golda said.
LIVE ON THE WEB
Golda and Greg Mescall of USA Water Polo will be the announcers today for FoxSportsWest.com's live coverage of the Division 1, 2 and 3 finals in its Prep Zone section. The coverage starts with the Division 3 final between Palos Verdes and Los Osos at 11:45 a.m.
Division 1 finalist Newport Harbor has captured five Division 1 titles under Coach Bill Barnett. The former U.S. Olympic men's coach also guided Newport Harbor's boys to 10 Division 1 championships, the last one coming in 1984.
So how daunting of a challenge is Barnett for opposing coaches.
"We know going in they have the coaching advantage, for sure," Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said of Newport Harbor after the Division 1 semifinals.
"I tried to have us prepared as much as possible."
Newport Harbor goalie Cleo Harrington and Corona del Mar goalie Erica Weed have been hot in the playoffs.
CdM coach Sam Bailey praised assistant coach Brian Mericle for his work with Weed, a first-year starting senior.
"He's been doing a great job with the goalies," he said.
Corona del Mar's other top assistant coach is former U.S. national team player Erika Figge, who played at Santa Margarita and USC.
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OCVARSITY NAMES AND NUMBERS
12 under-the-radar underclassmen to watch at the CIF finals (updated):
Brittany Amaya, Yorba Linda, So.
Kacey Avalos, Santa Margarita, Jr.
Kelli Baumgardner, Santa Margarita, Jr.
Amy Castellano, Yorba Linda, Fr.
Sarah Camburn, Pacifica, Jr.
Marina Coskinas, CdM, Jr. (new addition)
Shannon Grossman, Troy, Jr.
Elena Isogawa, Ocean View, Fr.
Audrey Light, Mater Dei, Jr.
Grace Schade, Troy, Fr. (new addition)
Caroline Thorn, Pacifica, So.
Rachel Whitelegge, Newport Harbor, So.
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10 top performers during the postseason:
Carly Christian, Newport Harbor
Makenzie Fischer, Laguna Beach
Stephania Haralabidis, Corona del Mar
Cleo Harrington, Newport Harbor
Emily Loughlin, Santa Margarita
Cecilya Lundy, Sunny Hills
Cana Manzella, Foothill
Madison Matsushima, Capo Valley
Nikki Quinn, Los Alamitos
Erica Weed, Corona del Mar