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Motivated Newport Harbor dominates
NEWPORT BEACH – Newport Harbor's girls water polo team drew motivation from two sources for its pivotal duel at the Holiday Cup on Friday.
The Sailors' defensive senses heightened with the arrival of U.S. youth center Emily Loughlin and undefeated Santa Margarita for a quarterfinal match.
And simmering below the surface, Newport Harbor was still fuming a bit about last week's loss to rival Corona del Mar.
The two motivating currents pushed the Sailors to their best opening frame.
Fifth-ranked Newport Harbor scored the first four goals and never was caught en route to an 11-6 victory against the visiting No. 7 Eagles.
The reigning CIF Division 1 champions defended so well, they fed their swift counterattack for four goals in the first three periods. And in the fourth quarter, the Sailors dropped the hammer on a winded opponent to get to the next challenge.
Newport Harbor (5-2) plays host to Santa Barbara (5-3) in the semifinals today at 10:40a.m.
"We were very concerned (about Santa Margarita)," said Bill Barnett, Newport Harbor's five-time CIF championship coach. "I saw them play earlier (Friday) morning, and they looked awesome. ... (And) I don't think (our girls) were pleased with their performance against Corona (in an 8-6 loss). So I think they wanted to prove something."
Newport Harbor held Santa Margarita (7-1) without a shot for the first 3:19 and forced turnovers on the Eagles' first three possessions.
Haley Wan put Santa Margarita on the scoreboard with 38 seconds left in the first, but Newport Harbor had already scored four times.
Rising sophomore Rachel Whitelegge set the tone for Newport Harbor's defense by collecting two steals in the first while guarding the Cal-bound Loughlin.
Whitelegge finished with five steals — all at 2 meters — as Newport Harbor held Loughlin to one goal — on a backhanded shot from center in the third. Loughlin still drew five ejections but the Sailors held the Eagles to a 2 for 6 effort with the extra attacker.
Avery Peterson added three steals for Newport Harbor, including two at center.
"I thought we played very good defense, especially at 2meters," Barnett said.
Said Newport Harbor senior Carly Christian of Whitelegge: "Rachel is a great player. She definitely has stepped up."
Santa Margarita cut Newport Harbor's lead to two goals twice in the third but the Sailors used their counterattack to answer each time. And in the fourth, Elissia Schilling scored twice from center as the Sailors' took the final period, 3-1.
"Going to down 4-0 against a team that plays good defense and counters really hard, that just makes it tough," Santa Margarita coach Kevin Ricks said.
"You're going to have to work really hard (the rest of the game)."
Christian and Schilling each finished with three goals to lead Newport's offense.
Christian is hoping the Sailors produce another fast start against Santa Barbara.
"It's going to be a tough game," she said. "Hopefully we can come out like we did in the Santa Margarita game and maintain a lead and hopefully win."
Santa Barbara opened the Holiday Cup on Friday by defeating Newport Harbor's JV, 9-3. It was the first loss for the Sailors' JV squad (13-1). The Dons then defeated Long Beach Wilson, 11-2, to reach the semifinals.
In another quarterfinal:
No. 1 Corona del Mar 13, Dos Pueblos of Goleta 6: Cassidy Papa scored six goals and Ally McCormick added three to help the host Sea Kings (5-0) reach today's 11:45 a.m. semifinal against No. 2 Foothill, a 9-5 winner against Laguna Beach.
The championship match is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. at Newport Harbor on Saturday.
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