The Cabrillo High Conquistadores gave it their best shot but, in the end, Newbury Park’s Panthers had too much firepower in Thursday afternoon’s CIF Southern Section Division 4 girls water polo first-round playoff game at the Lompoc Aquatic Center.
The Panthers (23-6), the No. 3 seed from the powerful Marmonte League, went home with a 15-9 victory over Cabrillo (12-13), champions of the Los Padres League.
“It’s a tough loss but Newbury Park is a really good team. They played well, scored well. My hat’s off to them. They played a really good game,” said Cabrillo coach Scot Larson. “I thought our girls played really well, especially in the second half but we had to play ironman water polo — we only have a couple subs and they have 22 players so fatigue was definitely a factor. I think we did a pretty good job keeping up with them.”
The Conqs were able to keep up early before a late first quarter surge powered the Panthers to a 5-2 lead.
After winning the opening sprint, Newbury Park worked the ball around to Bailey Stubblefield who found Madison Schwartz open in front of the Cabrillo goal.
Schwartz fired a shot into the lower left corner past Cabrillo goalie Sam Guerrero for a 1-0 Newbury Park lead just 18-seconds into the game.
It was the first of Schwartz’s game-high seven goals.
“Madison has a really quick, accurate shot,” said Newbury Park coach Dave Gleisberg. “When she’s got some space, she connects well.”
Seconds later, the Panthers did it again, working the ball to Stubblefield who tossed it into the for a 2-0 lead 48-seconds into the quarter.
But Cabrillo came back with two quick goals.
The Conqs’ Mary Rhodes took advantage of a penalty shot, firing it past Newbury Park keeper Bridget Hughes from the 5-meter mark to cut the Panthers’ lead to 2-1 exactly one-minute into the seven-minute quarter.
Cabrillo got the ball back after an excellent defensive stand and immediately took advantage.
The Conqs' Jillian Larson swam the ball down the pool and found Gretchen Von Protz in front of the net. Von Protz grabbed the pass and fired the ball into the lower left corner, tying the game at 2-all with 5:18 left in the quarter.
“Both teams got off to a quick start,” said Gleisberg. “They had some success early and we had to make some adjustments to what they were doing. They have some smart, disciplined players and we had to alter our game plan.”
The teams battled back and forth until the Panthers broke through for three goals in the final two-minutes of the first quarter.
With a man advantage, Schwartz scored at 1:59.
After an Abby Begg steal, Holly Maine found Schwartz who tossed in another goal at 1:27.
Then Begg took a pass from Rachel Vlietstra and scored for a 5-2 lead with 27-seconds left in the period.
Newbury Park made it 6-2 with a Stubblefield goal 20-seconds into the second quarter.
Again the Conqs fought back, getting a goal from in close from Jackie Garcia Mora at 5:15 followed by another Rhodes goal on a penalty shot at 4:41.
But the Panthers scored three more goals — two by Schwartz and one from Maine — to increase their lead to 9-4 with 2:17 left in the half.
Cabrillo’s Rhodes sent a soft floater into the net to close the gap to 9-5 with 1:15 left in the half but that was as close as the Conqs would get.
Schwartz scored again just before halftime and Newbury Park went into the break leading 10-5.
The Panthers scored four goals in the third period for a 14-5 lead before Cabrillo’s Von Protz netted a shot from 15-meters out as time wound down to end the quarter.
Cabrillo scored two more times early in the fourth on goals by Kaiya Ogan and Garcia Mora before Begg answered with a score from 10-meters out to give Newbury Park a 15-8 lead.
Despite the big lead, the Panthers kept pressing the attack until Rhodes scored the game’s final goal with 2:25 left in the game.
“Our goalie Bridget Hughes does really well leading our defense, keeping us focused,” said Gleisberg. “You need that kind of solid, calming player. She’s got light, quick hands and really anchors our defense.”
From there, Newbury Park was content to work the clock until time ran out on the Conquistadores’ season.
“The CIF playoffs are a big stage,” said Gleisberg. “The girls get the chance to show what they’ve been working on all season.”
Rhodes led Cabrillo with four goals, Von Protz and Begg each scored twice and Ogan once.
“Mary Rhodes has been a standout all season. Our offense revolves around her,” said Larson. “Jackie and Gretchen also provided us with some strong offense today.”
Following Schwartz’s seven goals for Newbury Park, Maine scored four times and Stubblefield and Begg each scored twice.