LOS ALAMITOS, Cal., Feb. 21. AND now there are two.
The "dream" match-up between No. 1-ranked Rancho Santa Margarita's high-flying Eagles (25-3) and the double-defending CIF Division 1 champ Foothill Knights (26-2) in the finals of this year's CIF Division 1 girls'
water polo Championships is now a reality.
The match will take place 6 pm Saturday in Long Beach's Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool.
Santa Margarita had things all its way in an 8-3 semi-final victory over 1998 champ Long Beach Wilson Wednesday afternoon here at the Armed Forces Training Center pool, while Foothill edged Newport Harbor, 8-6, to advance to the finals.
The teams have played once this season, in the semi finals of the SoCal Tournament at Irvine's heritage Park Pool Feb. 2, with the Eagles coming out on top, 7-4.
"We're looking forward to playing them again Saturday," Santa Margarita coach Scott Taylor said.
"What happened a month ago doesn't matter now. They're
still the champs and we have to beat them to become No. 1."
Santa Margarita lost year's title match to the Knights, 7-4, and Taylor said this season was geared to reaching the finals again — preferably against
"Everything has worked out perfectly so far for both our teams, now I'm just hoping we can keep up our momentum on Saturday. Foothill is an excellent team and they obviously know what it takes to win, having done so the last two years."
"You never know what can happen in the finals," said Santa Margarita senior Kristina Kunkel, who, along with teammate Erika Figge, was the match's high-scorer against Wilson with three goals. "It doesn't matter that we've already beaten them once this season, Saturday's a whole new ballgame."
Santa Margarita raced to a 6-2 advantage against Wilson by halftime, converting on all of their shots. Wilson goalie Kendal Cheak, instrumental in a 9-7 win over El Toro in the quarter finals, didn't record her first save until late in the third quarter.
The Eagles held the Bruins scoreless in the second half until Cassie Azavedo scored with less than a minute remaining, but by then the issue had long since been decided.
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In the other semi-final, Newport Harbor's Sailors — home to 200 back World Champion Aaron Peirsol (he's a senior there this season but does not play polo) — gavae the double-defending champ Knights a much stiffer battle than when they initially played a month ago — with Foothill winning, 9-3.
Foothill advanced despite losing star driver Gabbie Domanic to her third ejection with 4:42 left to play. At that point she had scored three goals and Foothill was hanging on to a 7-5 advantage with Brittany Hayes in the water with a pair of fouls.
However, Foothill put the game away when gaolie Emily Feher made a save and started a counerattack. Knight Breana Allison slipped loose from her defensive position and rifled home a score on the counter to give Foothill an unassailable 8-5 lead with 4:13 left.
"That was a big turning point," said Newport coach Bill Barnett.
Newport (23-7) got a pair of goals from southpaw Jenna Murphy and another from Annie Wright and goalie Leah Grocki had seven saves.
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In Division II action, defending champ Santa Barbara will get a chance for a repeat via its 8-7 semi-final win over Agoura. The champs broke a 7-7 fourth quarter tie with 3:18 left when Rosie Godlis connected on a
four-meter penalty shot.
Santa Barbara has played Agoura in the finals the last two seasons.
Ventura will be the Dons' opponent Saturday at Belmont, defeating Santa Ynez, 8-4.
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In the Division III finals, it'll be Harvard-Westlake's Wolverines (21-7) against double-defending champ Bell Gardens, 12-4 winners over Upland.
H-W defeated second-seeded Crescenta Valley, 7-6, the same team it defeated last season to reach the finals against B-G.
In this year's semi-final matchup, H-W, which had lost to Crescenta's Falcons earlier in the season, was led by Morgan Hooker's game-high four goals.
Interestingly, Harvard-Westlake lost the boys' Division 1 title last fall to Wilson, 8-7.
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In Division IV play, top-seeded Corona del Mar advanced to the finals with an easy 14-6 win over Tustin. Its opponent will be Placentia's El Dorado
High, which made it in via its 5-4 squeaker over Irvine University. The winning goal was made by Lauren Benson with just over three minutes remaining.
If Corona del Mar wins, it'll give the Sea Kings a sweep of the boys' and girls' titles, having won the DII crown as a "going away" present for Coach John Vargas, who left to take over Stanforde's men's program Jan. 1.
— Bill Bell