2016 CIF-SDS Finals

February 28, 2016

Saturday, February 27, was a great day for CIF Finals in Girls Water Polo, both in the Southern Section (SS) and the San Diego Section (SDS). Although I would like to have been able to report on both, no such luck, but it was a pleasure to be in La Jolla at the Coggin Family Aquatic Center —  a beautiful setting to crown four SDS Champions, two of whom I witnessed, in order to evaluate teams and players — since  I missed those folks earlier in the week of semi-finals.

Division III:

Top two seeds, Hilltop and Serra, were both ready to battle for their respective school’s first-ever CIF titles in Girls Water Polo. From this neutral observer, it appeared that each team had a case of the jitters, but in two different halves of play.

The Hilltop Lancers had a wonderful first half, scoring at will and taking a strong 7-2 lead. Due to great team defense, their goalie, Daniela Diaz-Grade, had no threats, no saves. The goalkeeper on Serra Conquistadores, Elizabeth Ferreira, on the other hand, was pummeled. Out of eight shots, seven went in and one missed the cage. Goals were scored by the star #2, Sophia Espinoza, who ended with 2 goals, 4 steals, and drew a critical penalty shot, and #9, Senior Priscila Rude, 1 goal, and a second critical penalty shot. The only thing was, along with her 8 saves in the second half, Ferreira blocked both 5-meters as well! And her team scored and scored, with 2 goals each by Tristan Langley and Savana Vander Schuit. Unfortunately for Serra’s second half shutout, the three first half goals by Junior Mildred Monsivias and eight second half saves by Diaz-Grade, sent Serra to Runner-up status, and Hilltop to the Championship.


Hilltop’s #3 Mildred Monsivias scores her third goal on a lob, the eventual game-winner.

Division II:

And what a great game this was! Just like Division III, Division II featured two new teams never having won a CIF Title, Mar Vista and Scripps Ranch. In this case, both teams came out at a top-varsity-level of play the entire game, unlike the DIII contest, which appeared J.V. at times.

Pre-game comments from Scripps Ranch Head Coach, A.J. Farrell: “We’re in the Final. We expected to be here. (Others might not have.) In the Quarter-Finals, we needed to ‘send a message.’ We did. In the Semi-Finals, we needed to remind ourselves, ‘this is our time.’ Now, for the Finals, our players just need to ‘believe in our system.’ (That would be the UCLA Coach John Wooden system of ‘fundamentals, conditioning, teamwork’ — with these three things, teams succeed!)

From the outset of the game, it was apparent that the Scripps Ranch Falcons did believe, jumping out to a 5-1 lead early into the second quarter with 3 goals from Senior Co-Captain Hannah Erbe-Smith and 2 goals and an assist from Junior Set Stephanie Soto, while Senior Goalkeeper Samantha Runyon racked up 7 saves and a long-ball assist to Soto. (Runyon ended up with 12 saves for the match.) Unfortunately, midway through the third, with the Falcons up 6-5, star player Erbe-Smith was ruled out for the remainder of the game on three personal faults, and neither Soto nor Runyon nor the rest of the team, including five more Seniors, could contribute to add points to salvage a win. At that point, the Mar Vista Mariners juggernaut pushed into gear, with Senior Co-Captains #3 backdoor Stephanie Morales, 2 goals, #6 attacker Isabelle Hastings, 3 goals, 3 assists, 4 sprints, leading the way, along with Junior driver Daniele Pena, 2 goals, 2 steals. And let’s not forget the outstanding back line saves by Junior Sarah Carr — ten total, seven in the second half!


Mar Vista Mariners rejoice in their school’s first-ever CIF Water Polo Championship.

Post-game comments from Mar Vista #6, Senior Co-Capt Isabelle Hastings, who had assists to both the game-tying and game-winning goals: “Wow. It’s overwhelming. For five of us, our Senior Year — we achieved out goal! It didn’t matter that we were down early — we came back! (Last year we had made it to Semi-Finals, but missed this opportunity.) We had positive energy. I think it was all of our fans love and encouragement that helped us to continue to play better — then finally win!”

Post-game comments from Mar Vista #20, Junior Daniele Pena, who had the game tying goal in the third quarter: “We did it! This Team accomplished everything we set out to…before the fourth quarter, we just said, ‘this is it. We tied it up in the third. Let’s stick to it and win!'”

For the record, Division I:

Top seed Vista High School (23-9) continued its winning ways by dispatching Fallbrook High School (21-10) by a score of 7-4. Vista Championship goals were scored by Senior Samantha Witt, 3, Juniors Emma Franck, 2, Kaylee Hughes, 2. Fallbrook scoring: MacKenzie Montgomery, 2, Taylor Dowden, 1, Jazmin Patterson, 1.

Also, for the record Open Division:

The Bishop’s School (26-6) beat top seed and cross-town rival La Jolla High School (25-5) in a defensive struggle by a score of 5-4, also earning the school back-to-back CIF-SDS Open Division Championships. (…interesting to note, La Jolla’s defensive strategy was to ‘hold Bishop’s to a handful’ of goals. They did. Sometimes life plays out in similar ways; you do your best, but it is not enough. My hope is all stay positive — and seek the next challenge.)

Goal scorers for Bishop’s: Robyn Carter, 2, Natalie Grayson, Lily Keck, Kayleigh Schultz, 1 each; La Jolla: Ciara Franke, Sydney Boland, Lexi Atwell, Karli Canale, 1 each.

Goalkeeper saves for Bishop’s: Cassidy Ball, 15; La Jolla: Bennett Bugelli, 9.

2016 CIF-SDS Semi-Finals

February 26, 2016

Between all 8 Semi-Finals in the San Diego Sectionals, the ‘game of the playoffs’ this far was the Open Division, Game 2 nightcap on Thursday, February 25th, between Carlsbad HS, ranked number 3, and The Bishop’s School, ranked number 2. Not surprising, since this was the second year of the Open, pitting the top eight teams in SDS based on power rankings…


Carlsbad (white) versus Bishop’s (dark).

This game met the spectator’s expectations, as it was always within a point or two for the duration of the game — and 7-7 with :04 on the clock when Head Coach Doug Peabody called timeout for Bishop’s. In lieu of putting the Goalie at half tank to initiate play, Cap #5 Robyn Carter, a most accurate passer, was able to arc the ball toward the 2-meter line for either #6 Natalie Grayson, #7 Georgia Gilmore, or #8 Kayleigh Schultz, camped just in front of the goal. What happened next was a complete surprise to the C-bad goalkeeper, Erin Vaupel, as she ‘reached sky’ for the original pass, then sank as Schultz tipped in the ‘shot’ with a flick of her wrist for the game-winner.

Goalie Cassidy Ball of Bishop’s led the Bishop’s defense, shutting out Carlsbad in the first quarter and logging 12 saves in the match. Grayson, Gilmore, Schultz and Robyn Carter had two goals each for the victors. For the vanquished, Taylor Onstott had 3 goals, 4 steals, Bella Schmidt had 2 goals, 1 assist, Megan Phillips had 1 goal, 2 assists, and courtney Cox had a goal, an assist and a steal. Although down 3-4 at half and 5-6 at third’s end, Carlsbad was able to take a short lived 7-6 lead midway through the fourth prior to a late goal by Carter to tie and the :02 goal by Schultz to win.

The Open Division, Girls Water Polo Game 1 Semi, was upset-minded Valhalla HS against the top seed, La Jolla HS.

Unfortunately, this game did not meet with Valhalla’s desires as LJHS jumped out to a 4-0 first quarter and 8-0 halftime lead before Valhalla came untracked to tie the second half 6-6 for the net result, La Jolla 14-6 over Valhalla. La Jolla’s hot shooters with multiple goals included Sydney Boland and Lexi Atwell, 3 each, with Ciara Franke and Karli Canale, 2 each. For Valhalla, Gabby Martinez, Shayne Hill and Spencer Samuel got in the groove with goals in the second half.

Pre-game comments from Valhalla Head Coach Page Small: “This was our second year in Open. Last year we were the number 2 seed against 7 seed, Carlsbad, but the ‘power rank’ was in it’s early stages. Although they beat us, we were honored to be in the ‘Elite Eight’ of San Diego Girls High School Water Polo. This year, the ‘power rankings’ were better, especially since we beat Division I top seed, Vista, but lost twice to Westview, sot getting them as our opponent in the Quarterfinals, our 5 vs 4 bonus game, was an unexpected loss by them, but awesome for Valhalla! So, in the end, a SDS ‘Final Four’ as this season’s culmination is the best for our young team.”


Valhalla (white) takes on top seed La Jolla (dark) at sunset.

Post-game comments from La Jolla Head Coach Keller Phelps: “We’ve been working on our Team Defense all year. We watched the Westview-Valhalla game and knew that to win we would have to hold them to a ‘handful of goals.’ Our double- and triple-teaming at set was ‘on’ and we shut Valhalla out in the first half. Not sure about either Bishop’s or Carlsbad as our Finals opponent–either will be tough. Bishop’s has a lot of swim-motion; Carlsbad does a better post-up slide. For either, we just have to score and hold them to another ‘handful.'”

Division I

A day earlier, in other Semi-Final games 24 February, San Diego Division I top seed Vista clobbered Torrey Pines 11-6 and number 2 Fallbrook outlasted number 6 Rancho Buena Vista 7-5. Since I was fortunate to be able to attend D-I Semis, here is a short synopsis:

  • The Vista Panthers, led by Juniors top scorer Emma Franck (5 goals) and goalkeeper Xochiie (pronounced Sochi) Torres (5 saves), jumped out to 4-1 first quarter and 7-2 halftime leads before wearing down the Torrey Pines Falcons in game 1 of D-I Semis. Although Torres only had a handful of saves, three of them were on point blank 1-v-1 attempts that emotionally drained the life out of the Falcons. Also to mention, Senior Samantha Witt had a goal, two assists and three steals.
  • In the nightcap SDS D-I Semi, the Fallbrook Warriors had a 7-2 lead early in the fourth quarter, only to survive a three-goal barrage and scare from the Rancho Buena Vista Longhorns, where both goalkeepers, Jordan Heimback and Taylor Becerra, played outstanding! Fallbrook was paced by Jasmine Patterson with a drive-in goal, then a sweep shot goal off a clean wet pass assist from Taylor Dowden, who also had a drive-in goal and a direct-freethrow from outside 5-meter; RBV was relying on 2-meter sets Senior Megan Coffin and Freshman Sarah Funfshilling early on, but they were shut down by the Warrior defense. Then, at the end, it got interesting. Sophomore Morgan Goodrich had three steals, one setting up Senior Ginal Corpora assist to her classmate Cheyenne Elton, followed by two more 6-on-5s with goals by Junior Casey Frame, assist Funfshilling, and a nice sweep shot by Coffin to end the game on an ‘up note.’

Earlier Semi-Finals, results for the record, although yours truly did not attend:

  • Division II, 23 Feb, number 1 Mar Vista 4-3 over number 4 Clairemont; number 2 Serra 8-5 over number 3 Olympian
  • Division III, 22 Feb, number 1 Hilltop 12-3 over number 4 Point Loma; number 2 Scripps Ranch 7-2 over number 3 West Hills

2016 South Bay Girls Water Polo

February 12, 2016

With distinct pleasure, yours truly was able to attend more that a fair share of Girls High School water polo games in the South Bay, Los Angeles, for a variety of both inter-league, Bay and Ocean League matches. These would include:

  • Peninsula at El Segundo, PVPHS win
  • El Segundo at Redondo Union, RUHS win
  • Redondo Union at Mira Costa, RUHS win
  • Santa Monica at El Segundo, SMHS win
  • Redondo Union at Peninsula, RUHS win
  • Torrance at El Segundo, ESHS win
  • Mira Costa at Redondo Union, MCHS win

All of the above games hit the mark for top sportsmanship and great play by each team. My South Bay power ranking is as follows:

  1. Santa Monica — a bevy of drivers and shooters kept the counter-attack at full speed, definitely a CIF Finalist — as top seed, positioned to win. OCEAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS.
  2. Mira Costa — led by Team Capt. Kaylee Brownsberger, game-changer when she’s on. If this team plays smartly, will make CIF Final Four in D3. BAY LEAGUE CHAMPIONS.
  3. Redondo Union — raised itself at five notches from last year, upset Mira Costa in an away game, their first Bay League victory at the Costa pool. BAY RUNNER-UP.