Yorba Linda players celebrate after winning the CIF-Ss Division 6 final in girls water polo on Saturday morning in Irvine.

Yorba Linda on target in title-game victory


IRVINE – Yorba Linda knew it needed near-perfect shots to beat Pacifica standout goalie Melissa Thorn in Saturday's CIF-SS Division6 girls water polo final.

"Especially in a game this big," Yorba Linda coach Jeff Gorman said. "I knew she (Thorn) was going to come up big."

Thorn was indeed sharp, but the Mustangs' shooters answered the challenge.

Senior Jessica Castellano scored twice on shots into the upper-right corner and her freshman sister, Amy, added one into the upper-left corner as Yorba Linda claimed its first section title with a 5-2 victory against its Empire League rival at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.

"My sister and I played softball for 10 years, so we were hoping that helped with the shots," Jessica Castellano said.

Top-seeded Yorba Linda (21-4) also used its movement on offense to score. Taylor Leach scored in the first period on a drive to 2 meters for a close-range shot. Taylor Best provided the assist, then scored on a drive herself in the third period to give Yorba Linda a 3-0 lead.

The Mustangs led, 4-0, before Pacifica's Caroline Thorn scored on a counterattack with 1:45 left in the third after a save by her sister, Melissa.

But that was the only counterattack strike for the Mariners (20-11), a major feat for the Mustangs defense.

"I think we played an excellent defensive game," Jessica Castellano said. "When we played them in league (and won, 15-9), they started coming back at the end. ... We shut them down today."

Thorn finished with 14saves, including one against a third-period penalty shot, but Mustangs first-year goalie Rebecca Stephenson matched her with 14 saves.

The junior had six in the fourth but highlighted her match by blocking a lob on a counterattack late in the first.

Yorba Linda used the victory to signal its emergence on the county scene.

The third-year varsity program started only two seniors.

"The future is very bright," Gorman said.

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