Always the bridesmaid but never the bride. That was the label attached to the Palisades High girls water polo team heading into the Los Angeles City Section championship game on February 14, 2019. After all, the Dolphins had suffered five agonizing finals defeats, all to Eagle Rock, in the previous six years. This time, however, Coach Kirk Lazaruk’s squad showed up at Valley College determined to smell the roses on Valentine’s Day, and that is exactly what happened. In the same pool where Palisades’ boys team had captured its record seventh consecutive City title three months earlier, the girls finally got to experience the feeling of being No. 1 after a convincing 13-8 triumph over Birmingham.
In a matchup featuring the top two seeds, freshman Adelaide Saab led the way with five goals, Julia Sansing had three, Maxine Eschger scored two goals and Leighanne Estabrook, Sydney Brouwer and Sammy Stahl added one apiece for the Dolphins, who were bolstered by big saves in the cage by goalie Chloe Berrisford.
“We knew we’d tire them out,” Lazaruk said. “We have so many girls who can score. If someone gets double-teamed it just leaves someone else open.”
Palisades began the season with a program-best 18 straight victories and never once trailed in the playoffs, outscoring its four opponents, 62-18.
As if being crowned champions for the first time was not cause enough to celebrate, the Dolphins earned more applause from their fans when Brouwer received the City’s inaugural Sportsmanship Award. Palisades earned a spot in the SoCal Regional Division II tournament, falling 16-3 to top-seeded Schurr. In all, Palisades won 25 of 28 games and set a standard by which all future teams will be measured. The Dolphins returned to the City finals in February but lost in a rematch with Birmingham, 17-16.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.