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New watermark for Corona del Mar
IRVINE Corona del Mar's girls water polo team introduced two improved ingredients to its championship formula Saturday night.
The Sea Kings unleashed a super-charged counterattack and an unrelenting press defense for their showdown against rival Newport Harbor in the CIF Division 1 final.
The two elements mixed with a healthier team chemistry to push Corona del Mar to new heights.
Speedy attacker Ally McCormick scored four goals and was part of a defense that didn't allow an even-strength goal in the second half as Corona del Mar claimed its first Division 1 crown with a 6-5 victory in front of an estimated 1,300 at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.
Corona del Mar (27-4) opened a 6-4 lead midway through the fourth period on a cross-cage lob from center by Marina Coskinas and then held against three Newport Harbor (24-7) timeout plays in the final 1:35 to seal its first victory against Newport Harbor in a Division 1 final.
The teams split four matches in the regular season but Newport Harbor entered the final with ultimate bragging rights against Corona del Mar: head-to-head victories in the 2012 and 2008 Division 1 finals.
"It's absolutely incredible," McCormick said of the victory. "Losing to them last year only fueled our fire and we only wanted it so much more because we know how miserable it feels to lose. ... We finally came together as a team."
Corona del Mar's improved chemistry with Greek transfers Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis has been on display the past 2 1/2 weeks but the Sea Kings' showed more speed on the counterattack and more tenacity on defense.
Corona del Mar delivered a 4-0 run in the first half to wipe out an early 2-0 lead by Newport Harbor. The final two goals came on counterattacks by Cassidy Papa and McCormick. A save by Erica Weed sparked McCormick's strike.
Newport Harbor knotted the score, 4-4, on a rebound put-back by Avery Peterson early in the third but McCormick broke free to score the go-ahead goal on another counterattack with 3:52 left in the third.
Each potent counterattack started with strong defense by Corona del Mar.
"Every possession, everyone gave everything they had," Papa said.
Corona del Mar's defense held Newport Harbor to a 2-for-7 effort on the power-play; the Sea Kings went 2 for 4.
The Sailors' Elissia Schilling scored twice from 2 meters in the first half, but in the second half, Corona del Mar limited the Sailors to an extra-man goal in the third and a penalty conversion by Carly Christian with 2:05 left.
"Our shooting was way off and then we allowed McCormick to get free,” Newport Harbor coach Bill Barnett said. “I congratulate them (Corona del Mar). They played well."
For McCormick, Saturday might have been her final water polo match. The senior has signed with BYU to swim.
"It feels really incredible that we're the group that was able to (win Division 1 for CdM)," McCormick said. "I still can't believe that it happened. It's the best feeling in the world."
Added Papa, "It's always good to beat Newport, and to beat them in championship, I can't even put words it into words."
Newport Harbor's Cleo Harrington made nine saves; Weed finished with six.
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