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Foothill falls to Santa Barbara in Irvine SoCal final
IRVINE – If Orange County's top water polo teams weren't sold on Santa Barbara's CIF Division 1 title chances before Saturday, they should be now.
Santa Barbara's girls used a stifling press to sink the county's top two ranked teams to win the Irvine SoCal Championships at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.
In the finals, the Dons built a two-goal lead in the fourth and held off No. 1 Foothill, 5-4, behind 15 saves by Maddie Trabucco.
In the semifinals, Santa Barbara improved to 3-0 this season against No. 2 Newport Harbor with a 5-3 victory.
"Right now, they're the team to beat," Foothill coach Jeff Colton said of Santa Barbara, which extended its winning streak to 15 matches.
The Dons (21-4) solidified their status by holding Foothill (22-3) and Newport Harbor (19-6) to season-low outputs.
"There's definitely a big target on our backs and our goal was to just win this tournament and show people that we are good," said Trabucco, selected outstanding goalie. "I think we definitely showed that today."
Santa Barbara's Kelsey O'Brien snapped a 4-4 tie in the finals with a power-play goal early in the fourth and Sophie Trabucco added a skip-shot to make it 5-3.
Foothill's Brenna Thomas scored a power-play goal with 24 seconds left to trim Santa Barbara's lead to one goal.
Foothill never led and played without standout sophomore Cana Manzella (sick) on Saturday.
"Not having Cana took out another one of their post-up players ... so that enabled us to match up a little but with Hannah (Lapkin) and (Nikki) Stansfield," Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said.
"I thought we did a really good against them and not letting the ball come in."
Stansfield, selected outstanding field player, didn't score but drew at least three exclusions. The Knights finished 2 for 7 on the power-play. Santa Barbara went 3 for 7 with the extra attacker and had a penalty shot blocked by Kelsey Roland (eight saves) in the fourth period.
In the semifinals, Stansfield scored three goals to help lead Foothill past Corona del Mar, 6-5.
The Knights took a 5-3 lead into the fourth but Corona del Mar goalie Erica Weed scored on a full-court shot midway through the final period to cut Foothill's lead to one. Katy Schneider responded with a power-play goal with 3:06 left to give Foothill a 6-4 advantage.
Ashley Zwirner helped seal the victory with a late field block for Foothill. The Knights held Corona del Mar to just one even-strength goal: the full-court shot by Weed.
"The CdM game was really tough - it was a physical game," Colton said. "It showed (in the finals) that our energy was a lot lower in (the finals). ... We were a little tired from that game."
In third-place match:
No. 3 Corona del Mar 9, No. 2 Newport Harbor 7: Cassidy Papa scored five goals to lead the Sea Kings (20-4) and surpass her combined goal total from three previous games against the Sailors.
"I wanted to do that for my teammates,” Papa said of her breakout scoring game. “It felt nice to get a good game under my belt. ... Once I got the first (goal), I finally got in my groove again because I was in a little slump there. I think the overall team aspect really kept me going."
Corona del Mar evened its record against Newport Harbor at 2-2. But Saturday's victory, the Sea Kings could now jump the Sailors for the No. 3 ranking in Division 1.
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