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Water Polo

Huebner’s Goalkeeping Lifts DP Over Santa Barbara, 9-5

Dos Pueblos thriving with goalie's return to the team

Dos Pueblos goalkeeper Petra Huebner and her defenders guard the cage on a shot by Santa Barbara’s Kristina Garcia (14). Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos goalkeeper Petra Huebner and her defenders guard the cage on a shot by Santa Barbara’s Kristina Garcia (14). (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Petra Huebner’s return to the Dos Pueblos girls water polo team has provided a huge boost for the Chargers as the enter Channel League play.

In her third game back after taking a break from the sport, Huebner stopped 14 shots, including a couple from point-blank range, to key a 9-5 Channel League-opening win over Santa Barbara in a battle of CIF Division 1 top-10 teams at the Elings Aquatic Center on Tuesday.

Sixth-ranked Dos Pueblos improves to 6-3 overall while No. 7 Santa Barbara is 11-2 and 1-1 in league.

Huebner put her stamp on the game early by twice stopping Santa Barbara’s leading goal scorer Kristina Garcia in the first period. The Chargers were leading 2-0 when she blocked a Garcia shot from point-blank range. The junior stopped her again before Garcia found the back of the cage with a shot from the left wing.

Abbi Hill of Dos Pueblos pressures Kristina Garcia of Santa Barbara Click to view larger
Abbi Hill of Dos Pueblos pressures Kristina Garcia of Santa Barbara (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Huebner finished with 14 saves and three steals. In her last two games, she’s held Mater Dei to four goals and Santa Barbara to five.

“When I play, I just get in a mindset and just focus on the ball,” said Huebner.

She didn’t have the mindset to play at the beginning of the year.

“She came to me prior to the season and said, ‘I’m not sure I want to go this year,’” DP coach Chris Parrish said of the conversation he had with Huebner. “I said, ‘Why don’t you take some time and think about it.’  After our Villa Park Tournament, we had a little heart to heart and she came back, knowing there’s only about six weeks left in the season at that point and that she can get through it. I think she’s back in.”

Santa Barbara certainly knows it.

“I missed a couple of games but I feel like I’m getting back into it,” said Huebner, who added that her teammates tried to guilt-trip her into coming back.”

Did she miss it? “Yes and no. I didn’t miss morning practices, that’s for sure,” she said.

Freshman Abbi Hill expressed her happiness of having Huebner and her three years of varsity experience back in the goal.

“It’s so reassuring that she’s back in the cage,” said Hill. “I’m really glad she’s back. She’s a great goalie and she’s getting a lot better. She gets us fired up.”

Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh agreed that Huebner was a difference maker.

"I thought their goalie played great, and Ryan Neushul and Abbi Hill were a handful to defend," he said.

In Huebner’s absence, Parrish put emphasis on playing tough defense in the field.

Petra Huebner Leads DP Over Santa Barbara from Barry Punzal on Vimeo.

“At the beginning of the season when we didn’t have Petra, we focused a lot on the defensive aspects of the game to try to eliminate shots from a lot of places,” he explained. “So to put her back in the game playing the defense we’ve been playing prior to her coming back, it really helps. Before that we were allowing a lot of goals, so this has kind of changed the mindset of the team. We’re more of defensive team and we’re comfortable with the goalie behind us. It allows us to do a lot of things.”

One of those things is having Hill and Ryann Neushul play off each other. The pair has the uncanny ability to find each other for goals. They both scored four to lead DP.

“We’ve actually been playing since Pee Wees, when we were 4,” said Hill. “We have a lot of communication and connection with each other. It’s just really easy  to know what she's going to do, and for her to know what I'm going to do. It’s really awesome to play with each other in high school.”

Neushul, a sophomore, finished a feed from Hill for a 3-1 lead and Neushul assisted Hill for a 4-1 advantage in the second period.

Thea Neushul, Ryann’s cousin, scored from the perimeter to make it 5-2 early in the third period.

After Lara Kostruba converted a penalty shot for Santa Barbara, DP answered with two goals by Hill for a 7-3 lead.

Kostruba and Garcia each scored two goals for the Dons.

Garcia scored on a penalty kick to make it 7-4, and the Dons set up a good look for Jessee Ransone. But Huebner read the play and gobbled up the shot.

Ransone got free inside and beat Huebner to narrow the DP lead to 7-5 with five minutes left in the fourth period. The Dons got another scoring chance when Kai McGeoy stole the ball, but Neushul denied them with an interception. She picked off another pass, drove down the pool and fed Hill for a goal and an 8-5 lead with 3:38 to go.

"We made poor decisions on our power plays throughout the game and on offense in the fourth quarter," Walsh said. "I should have done a better job of having them better prepared. That's on me."

The Chargers scored on a power play, with Toni Shackelford feeding Neushul for the final goal of the game.

Dos Pueblos is back in action Thursday, hosting No. 1-ranked Laguna Beach at 7 p.m. Both teams are entered in this weekend’s Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

DP’s Toni Shackelford looks for a teammate while being pressured by Santa Barbara’s Kai McGeoy Click to view larger
DP’s Toni Shackelford looks for a teammate while being pressured by Santa Barbara’s Kai McGeoy (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk)

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