IRVINE, CA. Feb. 2. COACH Scott Taylor's high-flying Santa Maragarita Eagles haven't won the CIF girls' water polo Championship yet this season but they put themselves into an excellent position to do just that here this afternoon.
The Santa Maragarita squad, ranked third in Southern California going in, showed they deserve the No. 1 spot by blasting Corona del Mar, 10-4, in the finals of the Southern California Invitational Tournament at Heritage Park Pool.
Earlier, the Eagles hd scored an even more impressive 7-4 semi-final win over No. 1-ranked Santa Ana Foothill, the tourney's co-top-seeded team, along with Bell Gardens.
"I was wondering how we would come back after playing Foothill, but we didn't let that win affect our play in the finals [against CDM]," Taylor said. "This is a great victory for our program and gives us momentum
heading into the CIF playoffs" (which begin in several weeks).
The SoCal Tournament, now in its seventh season, featured 30 of the top squads from throughout the sprawling region, and Carlsbad and Coronado from
the San Diego CIF Section. The tournament has also been around longer than the CIF playoffs, which began five years ago, and its winner — by going undefeated — is generally regarded as the country's top team.
Foothill was 24-1 before playing the 20-3 Eagles, but proved no match for an aroused Santa Margarita team.
The Eagles' Kristina Kunkel, the tourney's most valuzble player, scored four goals and teammate Erika Figge scored the go-ahead goal with 2:08 left to
play. On defense, Aimee Stachowski and Kary Kunkel stopped Foothill's junior national player Gabbie Domanic stone cold — holding her scoreless — while goalie Kelly Toder stopped 12 shots.
In the 10-4 finale against Corona del Mar, Santa Margarita's Stachowski held the Sailors' top scorer, Christina Hewko, scoreless and assited on a pair
Corona del Mar (20-6) reached the finals via an 8-7 win over El Toro Lake Forest, rallying from a 5-2 deficit. Hewko scored four goals against the Chargers to help solidfy her team's victory.
Bell Gardens, triple-defending CIF Division III Champs, saw its 85-match win streak come to an end against Foothill at this same tournament last season.
The Lancers were 20-zip coming in but lost 7-6 to El Toro, the top-ranked Divison II team.
However, the Lancers did score a pair of wins before their ouster, including a 12-7 win over Newport Harbor and a 9-8 triumph over Long Beach Wilson.
Bell Gardens coach Robert Greenamyer said his squad's focus is on preparing for the CIF Championships.
"We want to be No. 1 when ic oounts the most — at the end."
— Bill Bell
It wasn't Santa Barbara that did in Bell Gardens, it was El Toro in the
quarers, it was EL TORO, 7-6. Please correct. I was looking through the
results trying to figure out how Santa Barara could have made it into the
semis when I finally realized they hadn't and it was El Toro instead that
ousted Bell Gardens.