Vilander provides big assist to help DP edge Dons, 9-8

Dos Pueblos goalie Britten Vilander makes one of 11 saves against Santa Barbara. Vilander also assisted on the game-winning goal. (Vince Agapito Photos)

Dos Pueblos goalie Britten Vilander thought she lost the game for her team when Santa Barbara converted her errant pass into a go-ahead goal in the fourth period of Thursday’s Channel League girls water polo first-place showdown.

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But Vilander rebounded from her mistake by making several big saves and recording a huge assist to rally the Chargers to a dramatic 9-8 victory over the Dons at the Elings Aquatics Center.

After Kelsey O’Brien’s brilliant goal gave Santa Barbara an 8-7 lead with 4:29 left in the fourth period, Villander and the DP defense stepped up and denied the Dons from scoring again.

Jamie Neushul, who scored the game-winning goal was the high scorer of the game with four goals.

Vilander stopped a skip shot by Rocio Fesenbeck on a Santa Barbara power play and Jamie Neushul responded for the Chargers with a goal to even the score at 8-8 with 3:15 to go in regulation.

Santa Barbara goalie Maddie Trabucco came up big on a DP 6 on 5 to keep the score tied.

Then came the key play of the game. Vilander got the ball after the Chargers blocked a shot in the field and she spotted Neushul breaking ahead of the retreating Dons. Neushul scored on the breakaway to put the Chargers ahead 9-8 with 1:31 left.

“I wanted to make that pass really bad because I messed up; I had a pass that went to the other player,” Vilander said.

DP coach Chris Parrish said he was concerned about Vilander’s confidence after her mistake. But the goalie showed her mettle and delivered in the clutch.

“She made one bad pass the whole game, and if we didn’t win the game I think she would have been down on herself,” Parrish said. “But she had a fantastic game, got a hand on a bunch of balls, had a ton of saves and, in a crucial time, she made a great pass.”

Parrish joked that the play on the game-winner was just how he drew it up.

“(Jamie’s) out of defensive position. In fact, she’s so far out of defensive position she might as well go the other direction,” he said. “A lot of sport is luck, and that was extremely lucky.”

Kelsey O'Brien was Santa Barbara's high scorer with three goals.

DP’s Kodi Hill made a steal and killed some time. But Santa Barbara would get the ball back with 42 seconds left. Sophie Trabucco unleashed a shot on goal that Vilander knocked away with 23 seconds to go.

Then came more drama as the Dons drew an ejection. They worked the ball around and Charlotte Hendrix fired a shot from about 10 meters. The Chargers, however, had it well covered as two defenders joined Vilander to make the stop with two seconds to go.

“We missed a lot of shots we normally make,” said Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh. “A credit to them, they just outplayed us.”

The game was tight all the way. The score was tied 1-1 after the first period, 3-3 at halftime and 7-7 at the end of three periods.

Walsh noted that the first quarter was a good indication his Dons could be in trouble.

“We missed a lot of really good opportunities in the first quarter,” he said. “I’ve been around enough water polo games where I know when they come back to haunt you. And today they did.”

Last year, Dos Pueblos won both league meetings by one goal en route to its fourth straight CIF title.

The win leaves Dos Pueblos (13-7) alone in first place in Channel League at 6-0 while Santa Barbara (14-5) falls to 5-1.

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