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ARMANDO BROWN, FOR THE REGISTER
Foothill's Krista Schneider prepares to fire off a shot during Saturday's Holiday Cup final against Santa Barbara at Newport Harbor High.

Foothill girls claim Holiday Cup title

OCVARSITY.COM

NEWPORT BEACH – Foothill girls water polo coach Jeff Colton didn't declare his team the new Division 1 favorite, but his Knights will be difficult to beat if they continue to play defense like they did Saturday.

No. 2 Foothill used a strong press and stellar goalie play from senior Kelsey Roland and freshman Kenzi Snyder to defend its Holiday Cup title at Newport Harbor.

The Knights defeated Santa Barbara, 8-4, in the final behind 13 saves from Roland and a defense that allowed one even-strength goal.

In the semifinals, Snyder started against No. 1 Corona del Mar and collected three of her nine saves in the fourth to help Foothill post a 9-7 victory.

Colton reserved the sport's top billing for Corona del Mar (5-2), whose talented Greek transfers become eligible Jan. 1. But he believes his squad showed it's on track to contend.

"I still think they're the team to beat," he said. "We're excited that we're playing well right now, but we've still got a lot of season left. ... Hopefully, we can use this to keep moving forward and improving."

Foothill (9-1) almost shut out Santa Barbara (6-4) for the final 16:04. A penalty shot with 23 seconds left snapped the drought. The Knights also held high-scoring UCLA signee Kelsey O'Brien to one goal.

"We worked a lot on pressing and that has really improved," said Foothill's Nikki Stansfield, who scored four goals. "I think they (Santa Barbara) got nervous. They didn't know what to do."

Said Colton of Foothill's defense: "We pressed them a lot. If you ask (Santa Barbara coach) Mark (Walsh), we pressed too much. ... I think our press made it really hard for them to move the ball around a lot."

Santa Barbara earned six power-play chances, converting two into goals. Foothill was more efficient with the extra attacker, going 4 for 6 against goalie Maddie Trabucco (eight saves).

Stansfield believes Foothill's press frustrated Corona del Mar. The Knights held the Sea Kings scoreless for the final 5:58.

Snyder's biggest save was against the hot-shooting Genevieve Weed (four goals) on a power-play coming out of a timeout with 3:58 left in the fourth. Snyder knocked down a perimeter shot from the point to protect an 8-7 lead.

On Foothill's ensuing possession, Cana Manzella drew an exclusion that led to Katy Schneider's third power-play goal of the second half and a 9-7 lead.

Snyder made another save against Corona del Mar's power-play with 2:25 left in the fourth.

"She made a lot of big saves," Colton said of Snyder. "We think she's really good. We have a lot of confidence in her. ... We talked to the goalies before the tournament and said we're going to rotate games because we wanted to give her (Snyder) a chance to play."

Foothill's depth was its other signature Saturday. Colton said he played 15 girls in the final. At one point late in the third, he inserted five fresh players in one substitution.

"Trying to get more energy," Colton said. "I'm super-confident with having the bench in, sometimes over-confident."

In the first semifinal, O'Brien scored a power-play goal with 4:03 left in the fourth to lift Santa Barbara past Newport Harbor, 7-6.

Newport Harbor's Heidi Fults tied the score, 6-6, on a power-play goal with 4:31 left in the fourth.

O'Brien finished with four goals, including three during a 4-0 run that gave the Dons a 6-4 lead with just under three minutes left in the third.

In the third-place match:

No. 5 Newport Harbor 7, Corona del Mar 4: Cleo Harrington made seven saves to help the Sailors (6-3) shut out the Sea Kings for the final 7:56. Christina O'Beck and Elissia Schilling each added three goals for Newport Harbor, which avenged a loss last week against Corona del Mar.

In the fifth-place match:

No. 7 Santa Margarita 13, No. 6 Laguna Beach 8: Emily Loughlin scored seven goals for the Eagles, who scored he first four goals to take control. Santa Margarita's strong opening frame contrasted its slow start in a quarterfinal loss against Newport Harbor on Friday.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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