The Cabrillo Conquistadores seized control of the Los Padres League girls water polo race with a dominant 11-4 victory over the Santa Ynez Pirates Wednesday afternoon at the Lompoc Aquatic Center.
The win broke a tie atop the LPL standings with the Conqs improving to 4-0 in league games while handing the Pirates (3-1) their first league loss.
Mary Rhodes scored five first-half goals, helping the Conqs to a 7-2 halftime advantage.
Rhodes put Cabrillo on the scoreboard early, converting teammate Gretchen Von Protz’s centering pass into the game’s first goal with a backhand shot past Santa Ynez goal keeper Olivia Sparkes 51-seconds into the game.
“Mary is a very good player — I think she’s the best player in the league,” said Cabrillo head coach Scot Larson. “Mary has worked really hard to elevate her game. A lot of what we do revolves around her.”
Midway through the quarter, after an exclusion to the Pirates’ Allison Alderete, Cabrillo converted the man advantage into the Conqs’ second goal when Ashlynn Wiswall sent a floater over Sparkes’ outstretched arms.
Then with 17-seconds left in the first quarter, Santa Ynez lost one of its key players.
The Pirates Teghan Miller was whistled for a foul and exclusion as she battled for the ball in front of the Pirates’ goal.
When Miller stayed in the pool as play resumed, she was whistled for another exclusion for not swimming immediately over to the penalty box, fouling her out of the game.
That was a big blow to the Pirates.
“Teghan didn’t hear the whistle. The Aquatic Center is an indoor pool and it’s harder to hear the whistles than it is with outdoor pools,” said Santa Ynez head coach Tim Miller. “When we lost Teghan, we lost our offensive leader.”
It didn’t take long for Cabrillo to capitalize.
The Conqs’ Jillian Larson, the coach’s daughter, took a pool-length pass from Cabrillo goalie Samantha Guerrero and fired a shot that hit the crossbar. But the ball bounced to Rhodes right in front of the goal and Rhodes sent another backhand shot into the net for a 3-0 lead with 1-second left in the quarter.
The Pirates looked like they might get back into the game when Annie Ackert took a pass from Kylie Luke and sent a shot past Guerrero, cutting Cabrillo’s lead to 3-1 just 32-seconds into the second quarter.
“Annie was a trooper today,” said Miller. “She did her best to keep us in the game.”
That’s when Cabrillo turned up the heat.
Wiswall sent a backhand skip shot into the net at 5:38; with a man advantage, Rhodes scored from in close at 3:54; and then Rhodes made it 6-1 with a floater over Sparkes at the 3:20 mark.
Seconds later, the Pirates’ Jayde Maniscalco rifled a shot that Guerrero batted away but the ball went right back to Maniscalco who put the rebound in, closing the gap to 6-2 with 3:02 left in the half.
But on Cabrillo’s next possession, the Conqs passed the ball around, using seven passes to work the ball inside to Rhodes who scored her fifth goal with a floater into the net for a 7-2 lead that essentially put the game in the win column for the Conquistadores.
Cabrillo’s Katie Hunt scored off a Kaiya Ogan pass 16-seconds into the third quarter to give the Conqs an 8-2 lead.
“Katie had two big goals for us today,” said Larson. “And Jillian and Gretchen did a great job of keeping everything in front of them on defense, limiting Santa Ynez’s chances to score. Samantha made some key blocks for us, she did a great job in goal — I’m really proud of her.”
The Pirates’ Maniscalco scored her second goal one minute later, beating Guerrero with a shot from 5-meters out.
Cabrillo’s Lianna Carlon got into the scorebook after grabbing a rebound and pushing it into the net for a 9-3 lead with 3:02 left in the third.
The teams went through five uneventful minutes of the fourth quarter before Ogan put a floater into the net for a 10-3 lead with 2:09 left in the game.
Ackert beat Cabrillo backup up goalie Kayla Ochoa with a skip shot with 23-second left.
And with five seconds left in the game, Cabrillo’s Hunt took a pass from Rhodes and sent a no-look shot into the goal.
“Lydia played a great game and Lili Torres did a great job playing defense for us. In the second half, we switched to a zone defense and that really slowed them down,” said Miller. “It was a good step for us. If these girls can continue to overcome adversity at this level, they’ll be okay.”
“We have a young team but it’s starting to come together,” said Larson. “I think the girls are peaking at the right time.”
Both teams wrap up the LPL’s regular season next Wednesday; Cabrillo hosts Santa Maria at the Lompoc Aquatic Center while Santa Ynez hopes to host Nipomo, if they can get their pool open.
“We’ve been out of our pool for five weeks because of the Thomas fire,” said Miller. “First the ash from the fire clogged up our pool’s air filters and then the ash got into the pool’s air intake system. We lost a lot of games that can’t be rescheduled but we’re hoping to get it back open for next week’s LPL season finale.”