Pali High’s Girls Water Polo Squad Is Shooting for Its First City Championship
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
If it is true that defense wins championships, the Palisades High girls water polo team may have its best chance yet to win its first City Section title.
The Dolphins have reached the finals five times in the last six years but have yet to win the championship. If the first two weeks of the season are any indication, this could be their breakthrough year.
“We’re a much better defensive team and we have six or seven girls who can score,” Coach Kirk Lazaruk said. “We came so close last year and we’re stronger and deeper than we were then.”
Palisades lost to Eagle Rock 9-8 in the finals last February and is aching for a shot at redemption.
Leading the way once again is junior co-captain Leighanne Estabrook, who led the team in scoring last season and tallied the Dolphins’ only goal in the Southern California Regionals at Corona del Mar.
“I’ve been working on accuracy with my shots and my defense,” she said after last week’s Western League opener, a 23-0 victory over University in which she got to play goalie for the first time. “I asked if I could play there at the end for my minute of goalie fame. It was fun!”
The Dolphins are off to a blazing start and were 7-0 heading into Wednesday’s matchup with archrival Venice. Last weekend Palisades defended its title at the Burbank Tournament, going 4-0 and ousting Lake Elsinore Lakeside in the finals.
“You have so many blowouts—it’s nice to have these challenges,” senior Ally Stahl said following the Dolphins’ 8-3 semifinal win against Marymount in which Palisades scored seven goals in the third quarter to break the game open.
Ally and her twin sister Sammy also play on the Pali High lacrosse team with Estabrook and several other teammates.
A newcomer to the squad is freshman Adelaide Saab, whose sister Elena (now at UCLA) was a senior captain last year.
“We have a strong team so it’ll be exciting to see how we do,” she said. “One of the swim coaches had us practice from 5:45-6:15 every morning before school.”
“Being named captain was a great honor because all of my best friends are on this team,” senior Samantha Rene said. “Leighanne and I were already great friends and we’re up for this. I’m a little more vocal than her but it’s a nice balance between the two of us.”
Rene, too, believes this is the Dolphins’ year: “Our defense is great, the roster is stacked and the work ethic has been there so we don’t have to worry about conditioning. I used to be swimmer but I like the strategy and pace of this game—how you only get 30 seconds to make a play. I enjoy the camaraderie. We want this to be a defining year.”
Rounding out the varsity roster are a trio of goalies (seniors Jessie Taft and Chloe Berrisford and freshman Elyana Goren), juniors Sydney Brouwer, Nicole Kim and Emily Bunnapradist, sophomores Sophie Levy, Maxine Eschger and Marieka Possman and freshmen Kavita Sekhon, Alex Levy and Julia Sansing.
Palisades hosts the first-ever Dolphin Invitational next Friday and Saturday at Maggie Gilbert Aquatic Center.