SANTA BARBARA — The pool deck at Santa Barbara High is fairly cramped, so it's pretty easy to see the different girls' water polo teams playing or getting warmed up.
Colors also can provide a cue, especially when it's Back Bay rivals Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar facing off.
"There's kind of that tension when you walk on the same pool deck," Sailors junior Kate Pipkin said. "You see the lighter blue, you see the white, you see the pink. You're kind of like, 'Oh, they're here.' We have nothing against them; they're just our rivals. It's not just a game when you play CdM."
The navy blue and white-clad Sailors almost didn't make it to playing CdM at the prestigious Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. Pipkin was a big reason why the Sailors moved on Friday night.
She scored the game-winning goal from the outside with 10 seconds left, lifting Newport Harbor to a 10-9 victory over host Santa Barbara in the TOC quarterfinals at Santa Barbara High.
"The girl wasn't on me, so I just picked it up and shot it," said Pipkin, who drilled the ball into the lower left corner.
Third-seeded Newport Harbor (12-2) will indeed face second-seeded CdM (10-2) in the second TOC semifinal at 12:15 p.m. Saturday, at Santa Barbara. It's the rivals' second meeting of the season; CdM
beat Newport, 7-5, in the Battle of the Bay on Dec. 20.
Corona del Mar got past Mater Dei, 6-2, on Friday night in its TOC quarterfinal match at Dos Pueblos High. In the first TOC semifinal, top-seeded Laguna Beach will face upstart San Clemente at 11:10 a.m. The
championship match is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. San Clemente upset Foothill in a first-round game before getting past Agoura, 10-9, in overtime.
The Sailors trailed for most of their quarterfinal game against the Dons, in the rematch of last year's CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals won by Newport Harbor. The Sailors tied the score on six
separate occasions, but did not take their first lead of the game until Pipkin's final shot.
Santa Barbara took an 8-7 lead into the fourth quarter and was successful on its counterattack. Betsy Hendrix and Kristina Garcia led the hosts with three goals each.
"I think it was mostly our passing," said Newport senior goalie Cleo Harrington, who had five saves in the first half, including one on a penalty shot. "We were getting flustered on the outside, and trying to move it around too quickly without waiting for a girl to release to the ball."
Newport junior Rachel Whitelegge tied the score at 8-8 with 3:18 left, but Garcia made a backhand shot from set before Newport junior Ellie Reid scored on six-on-five with 2:12 to go.
Santa Barbara had a power play in the final minute, but rushed a shot. The shot was saved by Newport junior goalie Carlee Kapana, who had six saves and three steals in the second half, with 25 seconds left, setting up Pipkin's heroics.
Heidi Fults, Christina O'Beck, Whitelegge and Chanel Schilling each had a pair of goals for the Sailors. Reid had a stellar game with the goal and four assists.
Schilling, a junior who was a big part of the Sailors' JV success last season, had one of her best games of the season at two meters. She has been splitting time this season.
"She's an amazing set girl, I just don't think she's getting as many opportunities as she usually does," Pipkin said. "When she really works hard at it and goes for the ball and wants to put it in the goal, she
Meanwhile, CdM got past Mater Dei with a stellar defensive effort. Coach Ross Sinclair said the Sea Kings held Mater Dei to two for 10 with the extra player, and had six field blocks.
"We had a great defensive game," Sinclair said. "It was awesome. They communicated really well."
Maddie Musselman had three goals to lead CdM, while Eliza Britt, Annie Mortimer (two field blocks) and Grace Morgan also scored. Britt had a standout all-around game, with two assists and four steals.
Sophomore goalie Heidi Ritner made 12 saves.
Senior Bobbi Hoose had a team-best three goals as CdM beat Dos Pueblos, 14-8, in a first-round game.
Musselman, Morgan, Marina Coskinas and Shannon Frome each scored twice. Kampbell Gritsch had three assists, and Ritner made eight saves.
Newport Harbor opened its tournament with an 8-2 win over El Toro at Santa Barbara High. O'Beck, Pipkin and Reid each scored twice, while Whitelegge had a goal and three assists.
Harrington had six saves, including another penalty shot stuff. Kapana made 11 saves in the second half.
So now the stage is set as the rivals face off again.
"It's just another game for us," said Sinclair, the CdM coach and Newport Harbor graduate. "But it's cool. It'll be fun."
Said Harrington, the Sailors' team captain: "CdM's such a mental game. Every year, it's always CdM and Newport. We're really fired up to play them again, kind of get another shot at redemption."