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CIF-SS GIRLS WATER POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS
All of the games will be played Saturday at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.
Bonita (23-5) vs. Woodbridge (19-4), 9:30 am
Outlook: The second-seeded Warriors will make their first finals appearance against five-time finalist Bonita. Woodbridge, the undefeated Pacific Coast League champion, posted comfortable victories in the second round and quarterfinals before edging rival Beckman 8-7 in the semifinals. Junior Lindsay Cheung has scored five goals for the Warriors in each of the past two games. Woodbridge is led by second-year coach Alexandra Farraro, who also coaches the SOCAL 12-and-under girls and played at Northwood. Bonita, champion of the Palomares League, advanced from the upper bracket without playing No. 1 Millikan and No. 4 Riverside Poly, who were upset by other teams. The Bearcats, however, were ranked fifth in the final division poll. Senior goalie Madeline Jackson is one of their top players.
Centennial of Corona (25-4) vs. JSerra (20-6), 10:50 am
Outlook: The No. 2 seeded Lions will make their finals debut by taking on the top-seeded Huskies, who have reached their second final. Under third-year coach Natalie Seidemann (UC Irvine), JSerra has grown its numbers and improved but are still young. The Lions feature only one senior. “JSerra hasn’t been in CIF for at least a decade and now the girls are in a division final,” said Seidemann, whose sister and Olympian Melissa leads Corona del Mar in the Division 1 final. “I am very proud of what the girls have accomplished this season and the legacy that they have created.” Junior Sophia Balkhi and sophomores Sydney Chapman and Zoe Gabriel lead JSerra in scoring. Centennial has scored at least 22 goals in all four of its playoff matches. The team is led by high-scoring duo of senior Jessie Nelson (141 goals) and sophomore Bailey Desmond (131 goals). The 6-foot-1 Nelson is committed to Riverside City College.
Corona del Mar (18-13) vs. Agoura (23-7), 12:10 pm
Outlook: The Sea Queens, under second-year coach and three-time Olympic gold medalist Melissa Seidemann, are in the finals for a county-record 12th time. They’ve split two matches with the top-seeded Chargers. Corona del Mar, the fourth-place team from the tough Surf League, is led by seniors Claire Eusey (Brown) and Mia Bernhoit (UC Santa Barbara). Also watch for junior goalie Sarah Decker and freshman left-handed Didi Evans. Agoura is led by Stanford-bound Kai Blankenship among others. Chargers coach Jason Rosenthal, in his 26th season, is retiring after the campaign. He has guided Agoura to 537 wins and two CIF titles.
Edison (16-10) vs. Yucaipa (22-9), 2:50 pm
Outlook: The No. 2-seeded Chargers are in the finals for the first time and face top-seeded Yucaipa, also a first-time finalists. Yucaipa, led by former Santiago Corona coach Ty Hudson, beat Edison 6-3 at the recent Irvine SoCal Championships. Under seventh-year coach Nick Graffis, the Chargers have made major strides. The Chargers shared the Wave League title with Huntington Beach for their first league crown since 2002 and introduced county fans to collegiate-bound seniors Madie Ambrose (Michigan) and Lilyanna Larson (Loyola Marymount). The 6-foot Ambrose is a first-year starter who rose from the CMAC club and mentor Morgan Turner, who also played goalie at Michigan. Edison also features strong seniors such as Bridgette Angelovic, Lily Worley, Isabella Schulze and Riley Boehm. “We all came in as freshmen together,” Ambrose said earlier this season. “We just kind of built our chemistry up over these four years and now it’s finally showing.”
Laguna Beach (25-5) vs. Newport Harbor (25-1), 5:30 pm
Outlook: It’s the top-seeded Sailors against the two-time defending champion and No. 2 Breakers. Laguna Beach won the teams’ first meeting – a sudden-death thriller at the Holiday Cup in late December – but Newport Harbor has won the last three, including margins of six and seven goals. Newport Harbor features a multi-dimensional 2-meter attack that starts with Brazilian Bia Mantellato (Hawaii) but may include seniors such as Morgan Netherton (USC), Taylor Smith (UCLA) and Alex Love (Brown). Newport Harbor also received a boost from junior goalie Anna Reed, whose has been sizzling the past few weeks. She appears primed for a duel with Laguna Beach junior goalie Lauren Schneider, the county’s top goalie. Newport Harbor was the Open favorite before the arrival of Mantellato but has moved into the juggernaut status in building an 18-game winning streak. Newport Harbor can make some significant program history with a win. The Sailors can sweep the boys and girls Open / Division 1 titles in the same school year for only the second time in Southern Section history. Newport Harbor’s boys and girls also pulled the feat in 2007-8 with the combination of coaches Jason Lynch (boys) and Bill Barnett (girls). Newport Harbor’s Ross Sinclair would become the first coach to accomplish the sweep. In 2016, Orange Lutheran and former Coach Steve Carrera won both Division 1 titles in the same calendar year but not the same school year.