They scored six goals in the first quarter and three in the second, and still it almost wasn’t enough.
But it was, barely, and second-seeded Santa Margarita Catholic advanced to its first girls’ water polo finals since 2003 with a 9-8 victory Wednesday over third-seeded El Toro.
In the Division 2 championship, the Eagles (24-6) will play fourth-Mater Dei, which scored a 9-7 victory over top-seeded Corona Santiago as part of a semifinal doubleheader at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine—which will also be site of the championship games on Saturday.
Earlier this season, Santa Margarita defeated Trinity League rival Mater Dei in sudden death overtime, 12-11.
Emily Loughlin scored four goals, Morgan Martinez and Kelli Baumgardner two apiece and Tessa deRecat one for Santa Margarita. All those came in the first half, but they couldn’t find the back of the net in the second to give them any breathing room at the end.
Part of the problem may have had to do with Loughlin fouling out fewer than 2 1/2 minutes into the third quarter. She had scored Santa Margarita's first four goals of the game. The Eagles, up 8-2 at one point, led at halftime, 9-5.
With Loughlin on the bench, El Toro (19-10) mounted its comeback.
The Chargers scored two times in the last two minutes. Delaney Riley scored with 38 seconds remaining to make it a 9-8 game.
Riley and Valerie Spezzaferri scored three apiece for El Toro, and Rascon and Skaggs score one. Both goalkeepers, Santa Margarita’s Nikki Doumas and El Toro’s Emily Browning, had eight saves apiece.
In Division 1, semifinals
(3) Corona del Mar 10, (2) Foothill 9 (2 OT)—Stephania Haralabidis scored four goals and her twin Ioanna scored three—the last with 41 seconds remaining in the second overtime on a power-play—to give the third-seeded Sea Queens a return trip to the finals.
For Stephania, she has 11 goals in three playoff games; she had five in a first-round game against Ventura. Three of her goals against Foothill came in the fourth quarter.
Others who scored were Marina Coskinas, Ally McCormick and Cassidy Papa.
Goalkeeper Erica Weed recorded 10 saves for CdM (26-4), including one in the final seconds.
Foothill (25-4) had defeated Corona del Mar twice this season, 9-7, and 6-5—the latter on Feb. 2.
(4) Newport Harbor 8, (1) Santa Barbara 5—The Sailors will have a chance to defend their title by taking on their arch-rival for the second year in a row. Newport and Corona del Mar have played four times this season with each team winning twice.
Newport Harbor won last year's championship against CdM, 8-7. The Sailors (24-6), in the second game of the semifinal doubleheader at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine, set up the rematch by scoring the first three goals, taking a 4-2 lead into the first quarter and hanging on against Santa Barbara. The Sailors extended the lead to 7-3 in the third quarter.
The top-seeded Dons had won 19 in a row and had beaten Newport in three previous meetings.
Cleo Harrington had 13 saves for Newport, which got scoring from five different players.
Rachel Whitelegge, Christina O'Beck and Carly Christian scored two goals for the Sailors, and Avery Peterson and Elissia Schilling scored one each.