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Harrington saves Newport Harbor
Los Alamitos girls water polo coach Dave Carlson notices something happens to Newport Harbor goalie Cleo Harrington in crucial matches.
"She seems to play her best," he said. "(Wednesday) night was one of them."
Newport Harbor's junior goalie made 13 saves, and Christina O'Beck scored a game-high three goals as the No. 3 Sailors clinched the Sunset League title and potentially the No. 4 playoff seed in Division 1 with a 7-5 victory against the visiting No. 5 Griffins.
Harrington shined brightest in the third period, making six saves, including a spectacular stop against Stephanie Mutafyan on a counterattack to protect a 5-2 lead.
On the play, Los Alamitos (21-6, 4-1) held the advantage on the counterattack and tossed a cross-pass from the wing to the middle of the pool to the strong-armed Mutafyan. The U.S. youth team attacker bound for Cal had an open look from 5 meters, but Harrington moved to her right to make the save for Newport Harbor (20-6, 5-0).
"Well, she scored a couple on me (in the first half)," Harrington of Mutafyan. "She is so good. We really focused on her and Ella (Weber)."
Carlson counted three shots — one by Mutafyan and two by Weber — that he believed were "sure" goals but were blocked by Harrington.
“There were three shots that no goalie should block,” he said.
Newport Harbor was sharp in other areas, too. O'Beck scored twice during a 4-0 run by the Sailors in the second period that built a 5-2 lead.
The junior, known more for her outside shooting, capped the run with a strike from center with 14 seconds left in the first half.
Newport Harbor coach Bill Barnett said the Sailors have been working on O'Beck's 2-meter attack.
"You can't have too many 2-meter (offensive players) or 2-meter defenders," he said.
O’Beck also scored from the perimeter in the fourth for a 7-4 lead with 2:34 left.
"She did a good job of stepping up and making plays," Carlson said of O'Beck.
Newport Harbor’s Avery Peterson also supported Harrington by forcing a key turnover against a counterattack with about 1:40 left in the fourth.
The Sailors also converted 4 for 5 chances on the power-play, including a quick strike from Carly Christian for the first goal of the fourth period.
Barnett said his team's play was much better than Saturday when the Sailors dropped their final two matches at the Irvine SoCal Championships to finish fourth.
"I thought we played very well," Barnett said. "I was very pleased with our 6-on-5."
Part of Newport Harbor's reward could be the No. 4 playoff seed, and a potential quarterfinal match against Laguna Beach, which was scouting Wednesday night. The Sailors believed had they lost Wednesday, rival Corona del Mar might have emerged as the quarterfinal foe.
With the loss, Los Alamitos now could be headed toward a quarterfinal clash with Corona del Mar.
"CdM has the toughest (road for CIF)," Barnett said, citing the match-up against Los Alamitos.
Carlson said his team would be excited to play Corona del Mar. "When you get the quarterfinals," he said, "you're going to have a battle."
In another Sunset League game:
Edison 9, Huntington Beach 7: Risa Burke scored four goals and Dana Kerins added two at Newport Harbor to help the Chargers (14-14, 3-2) clinch third place and playoff spot.
In the Orange Coast League:
Estancia 10, Saddleback 3: Ilene Umansky and Abigail Garcia each scored three goals and Alexis Paul made 11 saves to help the Eagles (12-13, 1-3) force a three-way tie for third place.
In the Pacific Coast League:
No. 2 Corona del Mar 23, Beckman 8: Ioanna Haralabidis scored four goals to lead 10 players in scoring for the host Sea Kings (22-4, 10-0).
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