San Clemente breezes past Millikan in opening round of playoffs
By Steve Breazeale
San Clemente girls water polo head coach Logan Powell saw something in his team’s 24-5 drubbing of visiting Millikan in the opening round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs on Feb. 18—the ability to put the pedal to the floor from the first whistle and not let up.
The recently-crowned South Coast League champion Tritons (22-7, 8-0 league) came into the match riding a hot streak, and with the win over Millikan, out of the Moore League, San Clemente has now won 12 in a row. They will host Rosary in the second round of the tournament on Thursday at 5 p.m.
The Tritons burst out of the gate in the first period, forcing turnovers and converting them into fast break goals. The Tritons first two goals came by way of Amber McCutcheon. After netting a pass from Alaina Cousineau to go up 1-0 early, McCutcheon drove straight to the net following a Tritons steal on the next possession. Cousineau found McCutcheon again and got the same result.
The Tritons forced four Millikan turnovers in the period and got goals from Cousineau, Rachel Brownell and Sabrina Schundler to take an 8-2 lead into the second.
Both Cousineau and McCutcheon would tally six goals on the night to lead the team, and nine Tritons players each scored goals.
In the third period, the Tritons put on a clinical display of passing that involved four players. After bringing the ball into the offensive zone, Makenna Smith passed to Lauren Mathews, who was in position down near the goal. Mathews lobbed a pass to McCutcheon, who decided to make one more pass, this one to a wide open Cousineau on the other side of the net for an easy goal. The efficient passing play put San Clemente up 16-5.
The offense was potent, but the defense was just as good for the Tritons. Defenders Smith, Schundler and Brownell all took turns defending the two-meter spot and denied Millikan easy goals down low. When passes would come in to the center, the trio collapsed on the ball to break down the play, or get a steal. The San Clemente defense forced 10 Millikan turnovers in the match.
Powell said the win was a good start for a team that has let the opposition creep back late in games.
“I liked that we had a little killer instinct. We’ve kind of had trouble in the past with putting teams away and they did well tonight … We took care of business which is good,” Powell said. “It’s all about building momentum in the tournament and playing well and getting confident and I think we did that. We’re right in a position where we can make a run and it should be a good CIF tournament.”
The Tritons will host Rosary (19-10, 2-2), the third-place finisher out of the Trinity League, on Feb. 20. San Clemente narrowly edged the team 8-6 back on Jan. 11.