Chargers title defense a pressing issue

IRVINE – Halfway through Saturday’s CIF Division-I girls water polo championship, it looked as though Dos Pueblos’ bid for a third-straight CIF championship and an undefeated season was all but done. The Chargers trailed 7-2 late in the second quarter, being thoroughly outplayed by Newport Harbor.

But the top-seeded Chargers were able to turn it around in a big way, scoring the game’s final six goals to capture the title with an 8-7 victory before a standing-room only crowd at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine.

Jamie Neushul scored the game-winner with one minute and 47 seconds left in the game and put home the equalizer two minutes earlier on an outside shot, capping DP’s comeback from a five-goal deficit, their largest of the season.

“It was kind of a mind-trip. We just had to get our minds back into the game and focused,” said Chargers senior goal keeper Sami Hill.

The Sailors built the 7-2 lead with four-straight second quarter goals from Colleen McCall, Sophia Leveque and Veronica McLaren(2). But Kiley Neushul was able to get one back with eight seconds left before halftime and DP’s change to an all-or-nothing defensive press in the second half moved momentum back to the Chargers.

“End of the first half, beginning of the second half, we were just like, ‘come on, we’ve gone gone too far, too long.’” Kiley Neushul said. “Even when we’re down, we just motivate each other and come back.”

The Chargers become two-time defending CIF champions in Division I while the Sailors came up short in their bid to regain the title they held in 2008. Dos Pueblos won a title in Division II in 2008, making DP back-to-back-to-back title holders.

“We just got too comfortable, a little too confident and we were only half-way done with the game,” said Newport Harbor’s Kaleigh Gilchrist.

The Chargers won 31 games this season without a loss while Newport Harbor finishes at 25-6.

“Dos Pueblos, they’re one heck of a team, they’re undefeated, you can’t let down against a team that’s 30-0 and now 31-0,” Gilchrist said.

Dos Pueblos diffused four 6-on-5 situations in the second-half and was able to foul-out Newport’s Kathryn Klippert and Katie Jackson in the fourth quarter.

“Our defense wasn’t working the way that it needed to so we decided the only way we could make the comeback was to press all-out,” said Chargers head coach Danelle Little.

It worked, as Newport Harbor was shut out in the second half after scoring seven times in the first two periods.

“I thought we had a chance to upset them,” said Sailors head coach Bill Barnett. “To get out to that much of a lead and then kind of choke really leaves a bad feeling in your stomach.”

The game was interrupted twice in the second quarter due to scoreboard malfunctions, brought on by a heavy downpour that lasted nearly 20 minutes.

“I thought it was going to hurt us. As it turns out, it didn’t,” Barnett said.

McLaren scored her second soon after the game resumed for the second time to give Newport their 7-2 lead with 57 seconds left in the second quarter.

Newport had a last chance to tie the game and force overtime in the final minute. Hill reached out to deflect a Gilchrist shot over the crossbar with 32 seconds left, giving the Sailors a new 30-second shot clock and one last shot at extending the game.

Dos Pueblos’ defense came through yet again, not allowing the Sailors to get off a shot thanks to a Tiera Schroeder steal.

DOS PUEBLOS 8, NEWPORT HARBOR 7

Dos Pueblos 2 1 2 3 – 8

Newport Harbor 3 4 0 0 – 7

DP Scorers: K. Neushul 2, J. Neushul 2, A. Hill 2, Redfern, K. Hill.

NH Scorers: McLaren 2, Gilchrist 2, Obenauer, Klippert, McCall.

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