Sophomore Lezly Plahn attempts to block the polo ball. Credit: Josh Ren/The Foothill Dragon Press
The Ventura Aquatics Center was packed full of shouting fans filling the air with excitement and energy as the girls’ water polo team played their first playoff game against Fontana High School on Feb. 19. Foothill defeated Fontana with a final score of 14-2.
Within the first 30 seconds of the first quarter, senior Ariana Singer scored the first goal of the game. In the next play, junior Vanessa Villalpando recovered the ball and scored the second point of the game. Sophomore Lezly Plahn scored Foothill’s third and fourth goals, putting Foothill ahead 4-0.
Sophomore Meagan McKillican scored twice, with less than three minutes left in the seven-minute quarter. Plahn ended the quarter by scoring Foothill’s seventh goal.
During the second quarter of the game, Plahn scored twice more, one with 3:21 left and the other with 46 seconds left on the clock. McKillican scored once more, giving Foothill the lead of 10-0 at the end of the first half.
Fontana began to fight back at the beginning of the third quarter, attempting to level the score. Freshman Josie Thorp responded by scoring Foothill’s eleventh goal of the game. A Fontana player was then ejected from the game, which is when a player is taken out of the game for playing too roughly. Foothill did not score during the 20 second penalty.
Singer scored the twelfth goal with less than two and a half minutes left in the quarter. Fontana scored their first goal during a penalty shot, ending the third quarter with a score of 12-1.
The Footihill girls’ water polo team dominated in their first CIF game. Credit: Josh Ren/The Foothill Dragon Press
In the final quarter of the game, Singer scored the first goal with 4:38 left. As the game came closer to an end, Fontana retaliated by scoring their second goal. Senior Annie Sinclair regained possession of the ball and scored the final goal, ending the game with a final score of 14-2.
Coach Samantha Ebberson attributed the win to the girls’ hard work in practice.
“Everything we worked on at practice, they executed perfectly,” said Ebberson. “[The girls] went out there and they knew from the beginning that they had to start hard and be the first team to score, in order to set the tone of the game. That’s exactly what they did.”
Villalpando said that the girls “worked well as a team” and noted how they are becoming more of a “family.”
“When we started from the bottom, we were not working as a team that much,” said Villalpando. “But right now, I think we are more together and more of a team. [We are] like family.”
To Ebberson, the most exciting part of the game was seeing “players helping other people score, not taking so much of the limelight.”
“It’s when you see them start to be a team and start to see them say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to be the person to score. I’m going to pass it off and let my other teammates score it,’” said Ebberson. “That, to me, is heartwarming and exciting.”
Social Sciences teacher Cherie Eulau attended the game and was thrilled for the team.
“I was just excited about the girls’ first season and [them] making CIF, which is kind of a cool thing,” said Eulau. “I think they surpassed everyone’s expectations.”
Mathematics teacher Rick Villano, who also attended the game, believed that Foothill “dominated.”
“[The girls] controlled the game and every aspect of it,” said Villano. “These girls have already exceeded any expectation we would have of any of our teams.”
Despite the victory, Ebberson believes the team can improve on avoiding “silly ejections.”
The team will be going on to CIF playoffs after their win against Fontana High School. Credit: Josh Ren/The Foothill Dragon Press
“There’s certain times where I don’t need [the girls] holding and getting an ejection, especially when we get to higher level games,” said Ebberson. “And we [need to] know who we are playing against and how to adapt to certain situations.”
Plahn looks forward to next season and sees how everyone can improve.
“We can all work on ball-handling and getting faster,” said Plahn. “There are always things you can work on.”
The girls will compete in their second game of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division VI playoffs on Saturday, Feb. 28, and Ebberson hopes to advance to the championship game.
“Our goal is to keep going out there and keep [the team] going. Especially as it gets harder, you have to push harder and try harder,” said Ebberson. “Going this far is phenomenal and no one ever thought that we’d ever be here. [We] just keep pushing and keep moving forward.”