Lightning does strike twice. For the second time this season, Santa Margarita Catholic scored a 12-11 overtime victory over Mater Dei in girls' water polo.
This time, though, it came in the Southern Section Championships, giving the second-seeded Eagles the Division 2 title, their first since 2000.
The final at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine matched two Trinity League powers. Mater Dei (23-10) was the fourth-seeded team in the division.
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Junior Haley Wan scored five goals for Santa Margarita, which trailed at halftime, 7-4, and eventually 9-5 before pulling to 9-7 after three quarters.
Wan also had four steals. She fouled out in overtime, and joined Emily Loughlin and two other starters on the bench. Loughlin, who has signed with California, is one of the top players in the section and was on the sidelines because of a game misconduct.
In the absence of all those players, the winning goal came on a power play from senior attacker Tessa deRecat, who scored with eight seconds remaining off an assist from Sophia Baia.
The teams played two three-minute overtimes, and had deRecat not ended it—after Mater Dei's desperation shot flew high—they would have gone to sudden death.
It was the second goal of the game for deRecat. The Eagles also got two scores from Kacey Avalos and single goals from Kelli Baumgardner, Sage Pfeiffer and Loughlin.
Goalkeeper Nikki Doumas had 10 saves. Mater Dei's Anna Politiski recorded seven saves, and two other Monarchs were credited with a save.
Santa Margarita was in the finals four years in a row, from 2000-03, and this marked the program's return to the big game. The Eagles' only other championship came in the Division IV final against Corona del Mar in 2000, a 7-5 victory. The next three seasons, SMCHS was beaten by Foothill in the finals, twice by one goal—once in overtime.
Earlier this season, on Jan. 16, SMCHS defeated Mater Dei in sudden death overtime, 12-11, as Wan scored the winning goal. Though it's the second time this season that SMCHS has beaten Mater Dei, the Eagles hadn't beaten the Monarchs the previous two years.
It's the second year in a row Mater Dei (23-10) has lost in the finals; the Monarchs were beaten by Corona Santiago last season.
To see quotes and additional details, read the the story that appeared in OC Varsity.