SOCAL girls show potential in runner-up finish at Junior Olympics water polo – Orange County Register

IRVINE SOCAL’s 18-and-under girls didn’t need gold medals around their necks Sunday night at the Junior Olympics to make Orange County feel good about its future in women’s water polo.

The squad flashed its potential by recovering from an early, three-goal deficit against the East Bay’s 680 club to take a one-goal lead into the fourth period of the final.

Slick-shooting Ava Johnson of Las Lomas responded with three fourth-period goals to lead 680 to a 7-6 victory but SOCAL made its point at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

The Tustin-based club hung with an undefeated 680 team that hadn’t trailed entering the fourth period.

“My young girls rallied and they played awesome,” SOCAL coach Andrew Rowe said. “We gave it to them. I’m really happy. The future is really bright for this group.”

Senior-to-be Madison Stamen of ML King tied the score, 4-4, early in the fourth with a strike from 7 meters for SOCAL.

Mater Dei senior-to-be Grace Thawley later gave SOCAL its first lead, 5-4, on cross-cage lob shot from the wing off a pass from Foothill’s Noelle Wijnbelt.

But the fourth belonged to Johnson. The U.S. junior national team player scored the first three goals before UC Irvine-bound Christina Reyes of Murrieta Valley scored from center with 3:10 left in the fourth. Mater Dei’s Bella Baia assisted Reyes’ strike with an entry pass into center.

“That was the best water polo my team has played all year,” Thawley said. “It shows a lot of character to come up from being down like that.”

UC Irvine-bound goalie Morgan Jones (Murrieta Valley) made 16 saves to anchor SOCAL’s defense.

Laguna Beach also lifted the county’s prospects. The club, which produced recent Olympians Aria and Makenzie Fischer, captured national titles in the 12- and 14-and-under divisions. Charlotte Riches was selected the MVP for the 12s while Nicole Struss took the honors for the 14s.

Read the full article at the Original Source..

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