Orange Lutheran girls defeat Foothill to win Santa Barbara water polo TOC

GOLETA Orange Lutheran’s girls water polo team showed Saturday night far from home how to bounce back from setbacks.

The third-ranked Lancers pushed aside an overtime loss Tuesday against a Trinity League rival to finish their week by capturing the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions with a 9-7 triumph against No. 4 Foothill in a surprising pairing under the lights at Dos Pueblos.

Orange Lutheran (12-5) dropped a wild match in overtime to Santa Margarita earlier in the week, and fell to surging San Marcos 9-8 in a pre-tournament match Thursday. But the third-seeded Lancers opened two three-goal leads against fourth-seeded Foothill (14-4) in the second half and then made the plays down the stretch to capture the tournament for the first time since its CIF-SS Division 1 title season of 2016.

“I love that the girls bounced back,” Orange Lutheran co-coach Steve Carrera said. “Obviously (our) senior leadership is huge and the girls believing and really trusting in the process, trusting the coaches. … We really didn’t expect anything less.”

Senior tri-captain Hannah Palmer twice showed Orange Lutheran’s resolve in the fourth period. The UCLA-bound utility scored the opening goal off a post-up move in which she regained control of a ball that Foothill appeared to steal.

Foothill, which upset No. 1 Foothill 4-3 in the semifinals, responded with a power-play strike by Kelly Hungerford and a slick back-handed shot from center Julia Janov. But Palmer later drew an penalty shot that fellow captain and tournament MVP Brooke Hourigan  converted for an 8-6 lead with 3:25 left.

Emerging center Izzy Gazzaniga scored from center with 2:31 remaining to extend Orange Lutheran’s lead to 9-7.

The Lancers sealed the title in the final two minutes with a steal by freshman Anna Pearson and a save and steal by senior goalie Alyssa Barnuevo (10 saves), another senior captain.

“This is a big tournament to win but we can’t slow down,” said Palmer, whose team beat San Marcos 12-3 in the semifinals. “This year, it looks like it’s anyone’s game.”

Celeste Wijnbelt scored twice and Malia Allen added a goal and three assists for Foothill.

In the third-place match:

Laguna Beach 10, San Marcos (OT) 8: Rachael Carver drew an exclusion and scored the go-ahead goal off a pass from Molly Renner with 1:28 left in the second three-minute overtime to lift the Breakers (15-1).

 

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