Centennial girls water polo team advances to CIF State regional championship – Press Enterprise

CORONA – The look of devastation on Bailey Desmond’s face was apparent as she swam to the side of the pool after fouling out with just under seven minutes left in Thursday night’s CIF State Division III regional semifinal match.

Desmond, who is the Centennial girls water polo team defensive leader, collected herself and then suggested the tactical change that was instrumental in the Huskies walking away with a thrilling 16-15 victory over Birmingham at Corona High School.

Centennial led 13-10 when Desmond picked up her third exclusion in the second minute of the fourth quarter. Birmingham made a furious comeback, tying the score at 14 with 4:43 to play and again at 15 with 3:36 remaining.

Desmond suggested moving Kylee Hieda out of the cage to give the Huskies a stronger defensive presence in the field for those final minutes. Coach Crystal Voss made the switch, and Centennial held Birmingham scoreless the rest of the way.

“I have to give credit where credit is due,” Voss said of Desmond’s suggestion. β€œShe has great instincts and she never lost faith in her teammates. To see everyone come together at the end like that was great to see. ”

A high-scoring affair was expected Thursday night, with Centennial averaging 16.5 goals per match and Birmingham 14.4 goals per match coming into the contest. And the teams did not disappoint, as goals often were scored at a rapid pace.

Centennial’s Jessie Nelson continued her postseason rampage, scoring a match-high nine goals to lead the way for the Huskies. Nelson, a senior center, has scored 63 goals in Centennial’s seven postseason matches.

Birmingham’s Yareth Ramirez nearly matched Nelson goal-for-goal, as she scored eight times for the Patriots.

Centennial led 10-8 midway through the third period, and the Huskies extended the lead to five consecutive goals by Savannah Jenkins, Nelson and Catherine Jenkins. Birmingham answered back, as Ramirez scored twice in the final minute of that period. Ramirez scored three more goals in the fourth period to help the Patriots draw level.

Hieda switched caps and moved into the field, and Clarysa Sirls took over in the cage with 3:36 left to play. Hieda is a field player by trade, but she has spent a lot of time at goalkeeper in this playoff run.

“It’s just frustrating when you can not be out there helping your teammates,” said Desmond who celebrated her birthday Thursday. “I really felt that Kylee could go out there and help tighten up our defense at the end.”

Alejandra Rico scored her second goal of the match to help Centennial regain the lead with 3:23 left to play. And the defense made sure that lead did not slip away again. Birmingham went on a power play with just under three minutes to play, but the Patriots attempt to tie the score was foiled when Sirls reached up and tipped away a pass near the cage.

Nelson had an opportunity to put the game away with a minute left on the clock, but a chance for a 10th goal was blocked by Birmingham goalkeeper Audrina Murphy. Birmingham had two chances to tie the game in the final minute, but Centennial’s Nicole Lis came up with a steal to end one possession and Kaia Boone field blocked Birmingham’s final shot of the match.

“Things happen, and some times you can not always rely on those star players to be the ones to step up,” Voss said. “Everyone has to pull their weight, and we saw that happen with so may players tonight.”

Centennial will try to add a regional title to the CIF Southern Section Division 5 championship it won last week. Saturday, the Huskies (28-4) travel to Palisades (18-3), the LA City Section Division I champion.


The Yucaipa girls water polo team season came to an end Thursday night with a 9-8 overtime loss to La Jolla in a CIF State Division II regional semifinal match at Crafton Hills College.

The teams traded goals in the first half and the score was knotted at four at halftime. La Jolla controlled the third period, and surged to a 6-4 lead following a pair of goals by center Lulu Hirschfield.

Yucaipa (24-10) rallied in the fourth quarter, as Piper Shaffer and Shae Tully found the back of the net to help the Thunderbirds level the score with 2:35 to play. La Jolla (26-5) regained the lead when Natalie Dimeo scored with 59 seconds left in regulation. Yucaipa’s hopes appeared all but gone when a shot was field blocked, but Shaffer pounced on the loose ball and fired into the cage with 32 seconds left.

La Jolla grabbed momentum early in overtime, as Stella Chopskie and Dimeo scored on back-to-back possessions to give the Vikings a 9-7 lead. Yucaipa cut the deficit in half when Shaffer completed her hat trick with 25 seconds left in the first overtime period. Neither side managed a shot on goal in the final three minutes.

Yucaipa goalkeeper Christine Carpenter registered a match-high 16 saves, and Sammi Byers scored two goals for the Thunderbirds, which won the program’s first CIF Southern Section championship (Division 2) last weekend.

Hirschfield tallied a match-high four goals for La Jolla, and Dimeo added three more goals for the Vikings, who will host El Segundo in the regional title match Saturday. Roxy Hazuka finished the match with 10 saves.

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