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History-Making Night: Dos Pueblos, San Marcos, Santa Barbara Make CIF Water Polo Finals

Chargers will play Royals for Division 1 title; Dons to face Newport Harbor in Division 2 title game

The Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos girls water polo teams are all headed to CIF championship games on Saturday. San Marcos and Dos Pueblos will meet for the Division 1 title and Santa Barbara will play Newport Harbor for the Division 2 crown. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos girls water polo teams are all headed to CIF championship games on Saturday. San Marcos and Dos Pueblos will meet for the Division 1 title and Santa Barbara will play Newport Harbor for the Division 2 crown. (Courtesy photo)

On a historic night for local water polo, three Santa Barbara area teams earned spots in the CIF-Southern Section girls water polo finals.

Dos Pueblos, San Marcos and Santa Barbara advanced to championships games by winning their semifinals clashes Wednesday at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.

Dos Pueblos and San Marcos won in Division 1 to make an all-area championship game on Saturday. The CIF will make a decision on whether the game will be played in Santa Barbara.

Top-seeded Dos Pueblos defeated Foothill 9-7 and San Marcos knocked off second-seeded Mater Dei 6-4.

In Division 2, Santa Barbara’s Georgia Ransone scored with five seconds left in regulation to beat top-seeded San Clemente, 9-8, to put the Dons into Saturday’s championship against Newport Harbor. That game will more than likely be played in Irvine.

This is the first time in local water polo history that three Santa Barbara area teams have advanced to the CIF water polo finals in the same season. San Marcos and Dos Pueblos made the semifinals last year and San Marcos reached the final.

"It was pretty neat having all three teams down there today at that pool and all winning," said Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh. "It was almost like we pulled some water polo air out of Orange County while we were down there."

The last time two local teams played each other in a CIF final was in 2008 when Dos Pueblos defeated Santa Barbara for the Division 2 title. 

The area's last CIF champion was Dos Pueblos in 2011. 

Connor Levoff, the Dos Pueblos coach and head coach of the Santa Barbara 805 Water Polo Club, said having the three schools in the finals is a dream come true.

"This is something I have literally dreamed about," he said. "That is not an exaggeration. This is something we have talked about in hyperbole or hypothetical. I don’t know if I ever believed something like this would actually happen. And to see it happen...

"I can’t think of anything more powerful or reflective of what our community is doing in water polo. I’m super proud to be a part of that."

Sophie Trumbull of San Marcos stops a point-blank shot by Mater Dei’s Brooke Banta. Trumbull made 12 saves in the game. Click to view larger
Sophie Trumbull of San Marcos stops a point-blank shot by Mater Dei’s Brooke Banta. Trumbull made 12 saves in the game. (Peter Neushul photo)

San Marcos 6, Mater Dei 4

Senior goalie Sophie Trumbull came up huge, making 12 saves to help San Marcos beat the Monarchs after losing three meetings against them this season.

"The girls really showed a lot of resiliency today and wanted to win," said San Marcos coach Chuckie Roth, who has guided San Marcos to three straight CIF semifinals and two finals.

Cassidy Miller gave the Royals a 5-4 lead with five minutes left and Piper Smith drew an exclusion to give San Marcos a power play. 

Smith delivered with the player advantage, scoring from the post for a 6-4 lead with 4:46 remaining. The UC Irvine-bound Smith has scored five goals in the last two playoff wins for the Royals.

"She does a little bit of everything," Roth said. "We really like to use her as a center defender but Hannah Meyer has really improved a lot and that’s made us so much more versatile as a team. We can use Piper a lot more at the offensive end now."

Mater Dei drew an exclusion on Smith, but the Monarchs failed to score.

The Monarchs got the ball back with 54 seconds left and called time out to set up a play. Trumbull denied them with her 12th block of the game.

"Everybody played well, but Sophie was pretty good," Roth said. "She got ejected in the first two minutes and Piper went in the goal and made a save, it was pretty awesome."

Roth said the team has played better offensively, "but honestly we were so disciplined in limiting their offensive; our five man defensive was pretty good, we held them under 50 percent. "

Tea Poljak missed a shot for Mater Dei with 21 seconds and San Marcos ran out the clock to earn their second straight trip to the Division 1 championship game. The Royals lost to Laguna Beach in the final.

Miller and Smith each had two goals, Lili Rose Aiken and Fiona Kuesis score one apiece for the Royals.

San Marcos trailed 2-1 after the first period, with Miller getting the first goal of the game. Aiken tied the score at 2-2 and Smith beat Mater Dei goalie Marley Presiado with a shot to the lower right for a 3-2 lead.

Kuesis finished a San Marcos counterattack for a 4-2 lead at halftime.

Brooke Banta converted on a Mater Dei power play to make it 4-3 with three minutes left in the third period. 

But the Monarchs couldn't get their counterattack going because of San Marcos' organized defense. 

"We played really smart front-court defense," Roth said. "It’s the same thing that helped us at Laguna, too. As long as we stop these guys on the counter, play good team defense, we’re in the game.

"One thing we really focused on was not let our misses lead to their counters. Obviously it paid off."

Nicole Kresich scored in the fourth quarter for Mater Dei to knot the score at 4-4. 

Miller then rifled a shot off the goalie’s hands and into the cage for a 5-4 San Marcos lead.

Georgia Ransone scored the game-winning goal for Santa Barbara in its semifinal game against top-seeded San Clemente. Click to view larger
Georgia Ransone scored the game-winning goal for Santa Barbara in its semifinal game against top-seeded San Clemente. (Peter Neushul photo)

Santa Barbara 9, San Clemente 8

The Dons would not be denied from getting to the finals for the first time since 2005.

Ransone delivered the game winner after San Clemente tied the score on a penalty shot with 19 seconds left.

"It was pretty wild," said coach Mark Walsh. "We called timeout, ran a play and Abigail Hendrix found Georgia open in front of the goal and Georgia was able to convert. "They had a half-court shot that hit the bar pretty hard. It was really good job that just missed, so we were able to get out of there."

After giving up six goals in the first half, Santa Barbara goalie Faith Tedesco and the defense stepped up and allowed only two goals in the second half.

"Faith really turned it on," said Walsh. "She wasn't at her best in the first half. They got a lot of good looks in the second half and she made a lot of great saves, took good angles on good shooters. I’m sure they were shots their coach would have been happy with. (Faith) was really locked in. We scrambled for most of the game. They were fast, so we were scrambling to cover up."

He noted that Tedesco got her hand on the penalty shot but couldn't keep it out of the cage.

Grace Raisin scored to give Santa Barbara an 8-7 lead. She finished with five goals and earned three ejections.

Newport Harbor earned a pair of power plays in the last four minutes of the game, but Hendrix broke up both of them by making steals.

"Those plays were critical," said Walsh.

The game was tight from the start. Raisin converted a penalty shot and Hendrix finished a pass from Ransone for a 2-1 lead in the first quarter.

San Clemente scored three unanswered goals before Jordan Duggan drew an ejection and Raisin scored on the power play to make it 4-3 at the end of the first period.

Duggan earned another ejection near the end of the second period and scored at the other end to tie the score at 6-6 just before halftime.

"I told her she has a good shot and she needs to use it in this game. It was great to see her step in and score that," said Walsh.

Dos Pueblos 9, Foothill 7

The Chargers scored four unanswered goals in the second period to build a 6-2 lead and led 8-4 in the third before the Knights made it close.

Ryann Neushul and Abbi Hill each scored four goals and Thea Neushul had one for the now 29-1 Chargers.  

"I thought we did a good job eliminating their best player from scoring. She got one half court shot, and she got a rebound goal, Levoff said of Valerie Ayala. "Ryann matched up with her for most of the game."

Hill helped shut down Foothill's center Noelle Wijnbelt. 

"We played really good team defense, containing the center for the majority of the game," said Levoff.

The DP coach said his team has been taking the same approach in the playoffs as it has for all games this season.

"We had this odd way of not setting any goals based on outcomes and results all year," he explained. "In this situation, it’s all about how we approach games, execute and how we play together, giving ourselves a chance to be competitive and get better every time we go and play. That’s sort of been our M-O. It’s been the credo of what we’re trying to do. Nothing changes in the quarter or the semi or final for us playing a league opponent."

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