Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor are the top two teams in the CIF Southern Section Division I girls' water polo coaches' poll.
Each has a top goalie to anchor their defense. The Sea Kings have senior Alex Musselman, a three-year starter. The Sailors have sophomore Cleo Harrington, who continues to impress more and more with each passing game.
At the next level, the Back Bay is also represented extremely well. Three of the top four NCAA Division I women's water polo programs have young women from Newport Beach in the mix at goalie.
As the NCAA women's water polo season gets going, Kate Baldoni, Morgan Vickers and Sarah Wilkey are part of a large contingent of CdM and Newport Harbor alumni. There are 16 players from either CdM or Newport Harbor who are present on rosters of NCAA Division I teams ranked in the top 10.
If you want proof that the Sea Kings and Sailors are two of the best prep programs around, just look at all of the athletes who are continuing at elite colleges.
Baldoni, a two-time Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Player of the Year while at CdM, could have a big year in goal for defending national champion Stanford. Baldoni, a junior, had 125 saves last year while splitting time with then-senior Amber Oland, the former Foothill High standout.
The Cardinal, top-ranked in Division I, also feature CdM alumna Victoria Kennedy, a junior who scored 13 goals last year. Joining Baldoni and Kennedy this year is freshman Catherine Carpenter, a defender who graduated from Newport Harbor last year.
Stanford opens its season this weekend at the Cal tournament. The No. 2-ranked Golden Bears (4-0), NCAA finalists last year, will also be there. They feature lefty Jessica Robinson, a Newport Harbor product who scored 10 goals last year as a junior, including one last May in a national semifinal win over UCLA.
No. 3-ranked USC, which begins its season at the Stanford Invitational on Feb. 4-5, has the biggest local representation of any collegiate program. The Trojans feature sophomore center Kaleigh Gilchrist, a Newport Harbor product who scored 15 goals last year as a true freshman. Junior center Nicolina McCall (12 goals last year) and her sophomore sister Colleen McCall are also on USC, as is Newport Beach native Chelsea Silvers, who went to Mater Dei. Silvers, the older sister of current Sailors boys' junior Andrew Silvers, scored five goals last year for the Trojans.
USC also features Vickers, the senior goalie who has transferred from UC Irvine. She will compete for time with returning starter Flora Bolonyai, a sophomore and member of the Hungarian women's national team.
No. 4-ranked UCLA (3-0) also features three locals. They are CdM products Leslee Kaczmarek and Victoria Kent, as well as Newport Harbor alumna Sarah Wilkey. Wilkey is one of two active goalies for the Bruins, along with senior starter Caitlin Dement. The third goalie, Dos Pueblos alumna Sami Hill, is training with the U.S. national team in advance of this summer's Olympics.
No. 7 UC Irvine features freshman utility player Tori Gabert of CdM. The Anteaters, coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance last year, open their season this weekend at the UC Santa Barbara Gaucho Invitational. No. 8 San Diego State, which is in action this weekend at the Terrapin Invitational in Maryland, has Newport graduate Kimmy Morrison and CdM graduate Maddie Schwartz on its roster. Morrison, a junior utility player, also has played at Long Beach City College. Schwartz is a freshman center.
Robinson, Vickers and Nicolina McCall were starters on Newport Harbor's CIF Division I championship team in 2008. Morrison scored a big goal off the bench in the championship game, a 6-5 comeback victory over CdM in overtime.
No. 9 Indiana (2-1) features junior Megan McAuley, who also prepped at Newport Harbor.
The top programs will be buoyed next year as well. CdM senior Pippa Saunders has signed with Cal, while Musselman and Newport Harbor senior Maddy McLaren have both signed with UCLA. Newport senior captain Presley Pender is headed to Michigan, which is currently ranked No. 14 in the country, and CdM senior Diana Murphy is bound for No. 18 Princeton.