After a banner season for the Citrus Women's Water Polo squad, the Owls have locked in their berth to the 4-team Western State Conference Championships this Friday and Saturday at LA Valley College.
The Owls, who are the #2 seed in the competitive conference, and #5 in the state of California, hosted Santa Monica Wednesday for a play-in game that would qualify the winner for the two-round championship tournament. Citrus would beat Santa Monica 25-8 to advance. Citrus had control of the match early on, as their depth and sound fundamental skills were overwhelming for the Corsair team. The rather large platoon of well rounded and disciplined players that head coach Jen Spalding and her staff have developed were on full display in the match. The Owls ran clean and crisp sets, played relentless and gritty team defense, and sprinted up and down the pool like it was the last game they'd ever play.
The Owls had 8 players record goals in the game. Freshman standout Rachel Sherman and seasoned veteran Courtney Schween both found the back of the cage 6 times. Hannah Long scored 4 goals, setting a new career high in the process. The 5 other players scoring goals were Anette Cruz (3), Breanna Bailey (2), Nicole Phillips (2), Samantha Godinho (1), and Keylee Burke (1). The Owl's master of intangibles, Freshman Lauren Olivier, set up her teammates 6 times in the game. She also snagged a pair of steals, both of which resulted in transition goals for her teammates. Bailey was a pickpocket too, snatching 4 steals on the day. Francesca Vargas snagged 2 steals of her own and handed off 3 assists. Goalies Ceraiah Riley and Dynalee Huerta teamed up for duties in the cage, with Riley stopping 4 shots on 11 faced, and Huerta stopping 2 on 3 faced. The bright spot for the Corsairs was certainly Jolie Trujillo, the Jill-of-all-trades was a formidable force that required the Owls to make adjustments on both ends of the pool.
The Owls have been a visible presence in the state all season. After popping up in the #7 spot early on, the Owls have clawed, scratched and pulled themselves up in one of the toughest fields in recent CCCAA history. They found their way into the 5 spot after the first poll, and have been locked tight in that spot ever since. The team in that illustrious group of 5 that the Owls have their sites set on for a revenge match, is none other than Santa Barbara City College. The Owls had just one shot at the conference rival so far and it came early in the season. Santa Barbara took the match 9-6, and subsequently have found themselves one game ahead of Citrus in the WSC all year. With the development of depth on the Citrus roster throughout the season though, the Owls should be approached with caution. If both teams end up meeting each other in the conference tournament or regionals, everyone can expect to see a blood bath of a game featuring two extraordinary teams.
As Citrus looks ahead to the WSC Championships this weekend, they'll focus their energy on exploiting the weaknesses of LA Valley, who they'll face of against in the semifinals Friday. The two teams last met in mid september in San Luis Obispo, when the Owls topped the Monarchs 14-10. LA Valley will be in their home pool, but Citrus is a force to be reckoned with on the road, as they are an undefeated 8-0 when playing against an opponent in their home pool. The winner of Friday's match will advance to the finals on Saturday, where a conference champion will be crowned. Game time Friday is scheduled for 1:30 PM at LA Valley College in Valley Glen.
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