Road to the CIF Playoffs: '22-'23 Girls Water Polo
Last April, Orange Lutheran hired four-time Olympic water polo champion Brenda Villa to lead the Lancers as they headed into the 2022-2023 season.
The Lancers, coming off a CIF Open Division Semifinals appearance last season, were looking to make an even deeper run this season.
"We definitely have the talent," said Villa in an October interview. "It'll be a matter of playing and showing and getting the results that are needed to prove that that's where we need to be."
Out of the gate, the Lancers did not waste any time showcasing that they had the potential and talent to make a run at a CIF Title.
OLu started the season 14-0 with several wins over perennial championship contenders. At the Holiday Cup in late December, the girls went 4-0, beating Mater Dei, Los Alamitos, and eventually San Marcos in the championship game to capture their first-ever Holiday Cup title.
Their first loss came in the semifinals of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions to Laguna Beach. The Lancers finished 3rd in the Santa Barbara TOC.
That loss did not deter OLu, though, as they went on to win the school's 5th Trinity League title after going 4-0 in league, including a hard-fought 6-4 win over Mater Dei on January 19.
To round out their spectacular regular season, they captured the SoCal Tourney in late January, just before the CIF Playoffs began. They went 5-0 in the tournament and beat Los Alamitos for the 4th time this season in the finals.
A regular season record of 22-2 earned OLu the #2 seed in the CIF Open Division Playoffs, where they drew Mater Dei in the quarterfinals.
CIF Quarterfinals vs. Mater Dei
The girls water polo team (22-2) opened up the CIF Playoffs with a familiar foe on the opposite side: the Mater Dei Monarchs. The Lancers, the #2 seed in the CIF Open Division Playoffs, had beaten the Monarchs in their prior two meetings and earned their 3rd triumph with a thrilling 11-9 win in overtime to advance to the CIF Semifinals.
But much like those two meetings, it went to the wire. The Lancers found themselves down 5-4 at halftime. However, they stormed out of the gates in the 3rd notching four goals and taking an 8-6 lead to the final frame.
Mater Dei battled and eventually tied the game 9-9 with 16 seconds left. With the ball and a shot to win, the Lancer's defense forced the Monarchs not to get a shot off and forced overtime.
In the extra session, OLu rose up.
Kate Sloman put the Lancers up 10-9 early in the 1st overtime, and senior Sara Naulty scored her 4th goal a minute later to extend the lead to two. Lauren Steele was her dominant self in goal in the two overtimes, not giving up a single goal. Alison Cohen also had a hat trick in the win.
OLu held onto win 11-9 and punched their ticket to the CIF Semifinals for the 2nd straight season.
Awaiting the Lancers is Los Alamitos in their 5th matchup of the season. The game will be on Wednesday, February 15.
CIF Semifinals vs Los Alamitos
For the second time in school history, the OLu girls water polo team is headed to the CIF Finals after beating Los Alamitos 6-4 in Wednesday evening's semifinal.
It was a low-scoring affair, with the Lancers only up 3-2 at the break. Sofia Umeda, Kira Anderson, and Alison Cohen scored the first-half goals in the 1st quarter.
In the 3rd, it was three more Lancers, Sara Naulty, Michelle Urkov, and Kate Sloman, scoring to give the advantage they would not relinquish. Lauren Steele was dynamite in the net, stopping Los Alamitos chance after chance.
The Lancers will meet Foothill in the final, the same team they played in their only-ever final appearance in 2015-16. The game will be played Saturday, February 18, at Woollett Aquatics Center. The CIF-SS will determine the time on Thursday morning.
CIF Finals vs Foothill
Trailing 3-0 after one period to a very talented Foothill squad, the Orange Lutheran girls water polo team did not panic. In fact, they thrived.
OLu flipped the script on Foothill on Saturday afternoon, storming back from a 3-goal deficit at the end of the first period and halftime to avenge one of their two losses on the season and beat the Knights 11-8 in the CIF-SS Open Division Final. The win secured the Lancers 2nd ever CIF title in program history. They previously beat Foothill in the 2016 final.
Down 5-2 at halftime, the Lancers used a five-goal third period to storm all the way back and level the game at the end of 3. In the final frame, Allison Cohen put OLu ahead by 1 and 30 seconds later fed Sofia Umeda to take a 9-7 lead which was enough to secure the win.
Cohen finished the game with three goals, while Michelle Urkov, Sara Naulty, and Umeda had two a piece. Lauren Steele made 11 saves. OLu also was 6 for 9 with the extra attacker.
OLu's season will continue in the CIF State Regional that opens up on Tuesday, February 21 against Helix.
Related: Orange Lutheran girls water polo rallies past Foothill for CIF-SS Open Division title
CIF State Regional Quarterfinal vs. Helix
In the CIF State Regional opening game against Helix, the OLu girls water polo team powered past the Highlanders 17-6.
Just over 72 hours after capturing the program's 2nd-ever CIF-SS title, the Lancers were back in the pool. The game was tied 3-3 after a period, but OLu dominated from that point forward, outscoring the Highlanders 14-3 the rest of the way en route to the win.
Sophomore Michelle Urkov paced OLu with five goals, including 1 in each period. Eight different Lancers hit the scoresheet in the win. The Lancers are 26-2 on the season.
In the semifinals, they will meet Bishops, a rematch of an early December affair that saw OLu win by a goal 12-11. The game is scheduled for Thursday, February 23, with a time and location TBD.
CIF State Regional Semifinal vs Bishops
Following tonight’s 9-7 win over Bishops in the CIF State Regional semifinals, the OLu girls water polo team has gone as far as they can, earning a berth in the regional finals.
Allison Cohen spearheaded OLu with four goals and three assists. Kira Anderson had 2, while Sara Naulty, Michelle Urkov, and Sofia Umeda scored apiece. Lauren Steele made ten saves.
The Lancers will meet Foothill in a rematch of last week's Southern section final. This is OLu’s 2nd-ever berth in the state regionals final.
CIF State Finals vs Foothill
The OLu girls water polo season concluded on Saturday afternoon with a 10-9 overtime loss to Foothill in the CIF State Regional Final.
The Lancers and Knights, who had played a week earlier in the CIF-SS Final, which the Lancers won, again had a classic game between them two. After regulation, the score was tied at 8, but the Knights scored 2 in the extra session to win. Senior Sara Naulty and junior Sofia Umeda each tallied three goals in the loss. Lauren Steele had 11 saves in the cage.
Despite the defeat, the Lancers water polo team had a historic season. On top of the second-best record in school history, 27-3, they won the Holiday Classic, the Socal Tournament, their 5th Trinity League title, and their 2nd CIF-SS Championship.
For more information on the girls water polo team visit oluathletics.org.
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