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Water Polo

Santa Barbara Rises to Occasion, Beats Schurr to Reach CIF Semifinals

Grace Raisin scores 4 goals to help Dons become third local team to advance to final four

Senior and Cal-bound Grace Raisin splits a pair of Schurr defenders to score one of her four goals. Click to view larger
Senior and Cal-bound Grace Raisin splits a pair of Schurr defenders to score one of her four goals. (Peter Neushul photo)

With a large contingent of the water polo community on hand, the Santa Barbara High girls water polo team rose to the occasion and joined crosstown rivals Dos Pueblos and San Marcos in the CIF-Southern Section semifinals.

The Dons did it with a touch of Grace and a lot of Faith. 

They got four goals from senior Grace Raisin, played outstanding team defense and received terrific goalie play from sophomore Faith Tedesco to beat Montebello’s Schurr High, 5-3, in a Division 2 quarterfinal at the SBHS pool on Saturday.

Santa Barbara faces top-seeded San Clemente in the Division 2 semifinals at the Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine on Wednesday. The third-place team from the Channel League will be there with Dos Pueblos and San Marcos, who are playing in the Division 1 semifinals that day, marking the first time all three local schools reached in the semifinal round in the same season.

Abigail Hendrix gave Santa Barbara a 2-1 lead with a lob shot. Click to view larger
Abigail Hendrix gave Santa Barbara a 2-1 lead with a lob shot. (Peter Neushul photo)

It was possible this season because of the CIF’s decision to make the Division 1 playoffs a tournament for the top eight teams in the combined Division 1-2 poll. The next 16 teams in the rankings were placed in the Division 2 playoff bracket.

Santa Barbara (15-11) was 12th and Schurr (25-6) 13th in the final Division 1-2 poll.

"In the past, when we’ve been in that 9 through 12 range you have a tough first-round game in Division 1 and you’re done," Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said. "So this format gives new life to those teams that are kind of like us. Maybe you’re not one of the best eight, but you’re still pretty good and you have a chance to play in the CIF (semifinals and final).

"When I saw this format, I said, ‘OK, quarters is probably really reasonable, making the semis would make for a great season, which probably means you’re beating somebody pretty good.’"

The quarterfinal battle was as a reflection of the rankings: it was tight.

"That was like old school — first one to four wins," Walsh cracked. 

The shooting of Raisin, an organized defense, clutch defensive plays from Abigail Hendrix and Tedesco’s stellar goalkeeper made the difference for Santa Barbara.

The Cal-bound Raisin scored two goals in the first period to help the Dons take a 3-1 lead. Her third was a beauty, as she spun around a defender in the hole-set and beat Schurr goalkeeper Itzahiana Baca with a shot just inside the left post. 

"We quickly got the ball out and I quickly tried to post up so we could get quick entry passes before they ran their drop," Raisin explained.

Hendrix scored a tough goal to break a 1-1 tie, dropping a lob from distance over Baca.

Raisin showed her outside shooting prowess to put the Dons up 4-1 at 4:56 of the second quarter.

"It’s really exciting," Walsh said of Raisin's game. "You always hope your seniors will come out here and carry you a little bit."

Schurr’s Valeria Martinez  got one back with 40 seconds left, and the Spartans created a good chance to make it a one-goal game as Maria Flores got free inside. But Hendrix made a huge defensive play for the Dons, racing in from the back side to knock the ball away and prevent a shot.

Raisin struck again off a pass from freshman Elise Power at 4:12 of the third period to give the Dons a 5-2 lead.

Cynthia Rosa got inside and beat Tedesco on a lob to make 5-3 with 1:56 left in the period.

Tedesco denied the Spartans on power play with a stop of point-blank shot and later reached high to snare a lob shot near the end of the third period.

"It’s kind of anticipation," Tedesco said of defending the lob shot. "Walsh told me that they lob a lot, so I guessed it and went for it."

She added: "Their offense was kind of the counterattack and we stopped that, which was good. It kind of came down to the half court and we stopped that."

Walsh couldn't say enough about Tedesco.

"I think she’s one off the best goalies around," he said. "I’d take her over just about anybody. As a sophomore she’s great. Their goalie was great too, and we knew that was going to be an issue. She made things hard for us."

There was no scoring in the fourth period, but there was plenty of drama.

Hendrix made a terrific cross-pool pass to Alex Szymczak who drew an ejection. The Dons, however, were denied on the power play by the Spartans.

Both teams played tough defense and both goalkeepers came up with big saves. Schurr contained Santa Barbara on another power play, but the Dons prevailed at the final buzzer.

And the whole Santa Barbara water polo community celebrated.

"It’s pretty impressive, two teams in Division 1 and we’re top four in Division 2. That’s pretty good," Walsh said. "Sometimes for the girls it’s little tough when they lose the league games to the local teams. It kind of feels like you’re not that good because you’re third place in your little town. But once we get out of our little town we’re pretty good compared to everybody else. And I think they like to go out and prove that to everybody."

Said Raisin on seeing the DP and San Marcos players rooting for the Dons: "It means so much because we’re all on the same club team and were all such good friends. The fact they came and wore our colors was super nice of them." 

Said Walsh: "This town is really tight ... the girls love each other. Part of the reason why they want to win so bad is they want to be there (in Irvine) on Wednesday to see those girls play."

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

Santa Barbara goalie Faith Tedesco tips a shot away against Schurr in the CIF Division 2 quarterfinals. Tedesco made eight saves in the 5-3 win, Click to view larger
Santa Barbara goalie Faith Tedesco tips a shot away against Schurr in the CIF Division 2 quarterfinals. Tedesco made eight saves in the 5-3 win, (Gary Kim photo)

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