Irvine Girls Water Polo falls to Long Beach Poly – Orange County Register in CIF-SS Division 3 Quarterfinals
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Irvine’s girls water polo team returned to the main stage of the CIF Southern Section Playoffs Saturday, a season after missing the postseason.
The fourth-placed Vaqueros fell 9-7 to Long Beach Poly #5 in the Division 3 Quarterfinals at Woollett Aquatics Center, but showed plenty of promise and improvement in their deepest playoff run under fourth-year coach Ray Wong.
Irvine (18-9), the third-place Pacific Coast League team, started with three students and a junior on the field and played a student and a junior off the bench.
The Vaqueros cut a four-goal deficit to two before the final period and had chances for a one-goal lead, but the Jackrabbits (20-10) rallied in the final three minutes of regular time to reach the semifinals on Wednesday.
Long Beach Poly, the third-seeded Moore League team, meets top-seeded JSerra, who defeated Elsinore 19-4 in another quarterfinal.
Wong saw enough potential in the vaqueros – including a team-high four goals from sophomore forward Sophia Banua – to eagerly anticipate next season’s opportunities.
“Give us another year in Division 3 and we’ll see what we can do,” he said. “[Today]is a good learning experience for them to really understand what it takes as the levels get better.”
“We’ve definitely had a good year,” added the coach, “we can continue to build on that.”
Irvine second attacker Julia Bautista counterattacked at 3:12 in the fourth period to cut Long Beach Poly’s lead to 9-7. The Vaqueros had another chance some 30 seconds later, but their shot from a deficit of 1-0 went wide of the target.
Irvine forced seven turnovers and didn’t concede a goal in the fourth quarter in a bid to advance to the semifinals.
Goaltender Sienna Groves helped stabilize the Jackrabbits by making three of their 11 halftime saves, including one from a counterattack.
“I’m really proud of this one,” said Long Beach Poly coach Ryan Rockenbach. “It got a bit stressful (in the fourth) for us and we made a bit more mistakes but our girls were able to stay strong.”
Irvine senior goalie Kayla Melville also played well, recording nine saves. Sophomore Emma Beliveau and junior center Sydney Marlin each added goals for the Vaqueros, one of Orange County’s first Division 1 powerhouses under the late coach Scott Hinman.
The Jackrabbits pressed hard and conceded a five-goal match-high from Anna Mor.
The junior made one of the biggest plays of the game on defense late in the first half. She blocked an open power play shot that set off a Marcy Leonor counterattack with 16 seconds remaining. The momentum swing extends Long Beach Poly’s lead to 5-2.
“That was big,” Rockenbach said of Mor’s pounding block from close range, which added two counterattacks in the final 1:17 of game three to cut the Jackrabbits’ lead to 9-5. “One of the biggest adrenaline rushes in water polo is when you get a shot block.”
Also in Division 3:
JSerra 19, Elsinore 4: Sloane Paulson scored five goals and colleague Kamryn McCord added four to lead the host Lions (24-4).
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/11/improved-irvine-girls-water-polo-falls-to-long-beach-poly-in-cif-ss-division-3-quarterfinals/ Irvine Girls Water Polo falls to Long Beach Poly – Orange County Register in CIF-SS Division 3 Quarterfinals