DP needs a sudden-death goal to turn back Dons

Dos Pueblos water polo star Kiley Neushul was so emotionally spent she could barely describe how she scored the goal in sudden-death overtime to beat a tough Santa Barbara team on Tuesday afternoon.

It was that intense of a game at the SBHS pool.

The Dons, who four days earlier lost to DP by eight goals in the final of the Tournament of Champions, gave the three-time defending CIF champions their biggest scare of the season, coming within seconds of ending their winning streak at 52 games.

But Neushul made sure the streak reached 53 games.

First, she powered through a double team and scored with less than minute left in the second overtime period to tie the score at 10-10.

Then, for the coup de grace in sudden-death overtime, she received a pass from her younger sister Jaime and unleashed a wicked backhand shot that stunned Dons goalie Maddie Trabucco and lifted the Chargers to a thrilling 11-10 Channel League win.

“The stars were aligned,” Kiley said of her shot after the game. “(Jaime) found me there, and it was a great play.”

The goal was pure brilliance by the Stanford-bound Neushul. With her back to goal, she sensed that Santa Barbara defender Kelsey O’Brien was waiting for her to turn right for the shot. Instead, she used a powerful backhand to beat the Dons for the third time this season.

Kiley scored five goals to lead the Chargers, while Jaime added four goals.

“When you got Kiley Neushul and some of these other girls, it’s tough,” Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said. “You think you have them and then they put ball in the two meters, draw an ejection and score on a 6 on 5. They’re really good.”

Walsh had his team well-prepared for the Chargers. The Dons collapsed on Kiley Neushul in the middle, did a good job of neutralizing DP’s counterattack, cut down on turnovers and took good shots.

“I thought we competed every second of the way,” said Walsh.

Makenzy Fowler scored three goals and Betsy Hendrix and O’Brien had two each for the Dons.

Betsy Hendrix scored on a quick restart after a foul to tie the score at 9-9 late in the fourth period. The Dons got the ball back when they forced a shot-clock violation and threw a long pass into the attacking area, but Jaime Neushal soared high out of the water to intercept it.

Kiley Neushul’s long shot at the buzzer went wide, sending the game into two three-minute overtime periods.

Betsy Hendrix converted a penalty shot with 52 seconds left in the first overtime period to give Santa Barbara a 10-9 lead.

At the break between overtimes, Walsh told his team, “We need three minutes of good defense and we got this.”

Santa Barbara players scrambled all over the pool to thwart the Chargers for two minutes. But when the ball got inside to Kiley Neushul, there was no stopping her from scoring. She turned and powered her way past two defenders and beat Trabucco at the near post.

The Chargers pressured to score the game-winner before time expired, but Santa Barbara defenders rose to the challenge and blocked two shots to send the game into sudden-death overtime.

“We expected a tough game,” Neushul said. “They didn’t show us their all the last time. We saw their all today and it was really tough to compete against.”

DP coach Chris Parrish thought the intense competition was terrific.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in a water polo game in about eight years,” he said. “It was fantastic.”

He credited Santa Barbara’s defense and good shooting for keeping the game close.

“(Santa Barbara) made a concerted effort to slow us down in transition and play us in a half-court game,” Parrish said. “Teams are going to hit shots against us and when they do that makes it really hard to play.”

The Dons were especially lethal in the fourth period. Trailing 7-4, they outscored the Chargers 5-2 to tie the score and send the game into overtime.

“I knew it was going to take an absolute 100 percent full effort to win,” Walsh said. “I was working my tail off and the girls were working their tail off. We still came up a little short. I don’t know exactly what it takes to beat them, but we were close.”

Dos Pueblos improves to 16-0 and 3-0 in league while Santa Barbara is 12-6 and 2-2. Both league losses were to DP by one goal.