By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Having won its first two tournaments of the season, Palisades High’s girls water polo team sought to make it three-for-three last weekend in Ventura County. The Dolphins entered the 18th annual Oxnard Varsity Tournament undefeated and brimming with confidence. They left two days later with a healthy outlook on where they are and where they want to be come playoff time after finishing fourth in the elite 22-team field.
After beating Flintridge Sacred Heart 11-5 and host Rio Mesa 16-6 on Friday, the Dolphins extended their season-opening winning streak to a program-record 18 with their 12-6 victory over Moorpark Saturday morning at Oxnard High.
That set up a semifinal showdown with Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, which shot to a 4-0 lead on its way to handing the Dolphins their first defeat, 13-8. Two and a half hours later Palisades was back in the pool to battle Westlake for third place but the Warriors scored the decider with seven seconds left to win 9-8.
“We were 16th here two years ago and 13th last year, so it’s a big improvement,” Pali High Coach Kirk Lazaruk said. “We tried to ratchet up the competition in our tournaments this year and this was by far the toughest of the three. We got exactly what we wanted. We’re stung by the losses but we learned some important things we need to adjust. We’ll regroup and start a new streak.”
Leighanne Estabrook led the charge with three goals against Flintridge Sacred Heart while Sydney Brouwer, Adelaide Saab, Julia Sansing and Maxine Eschger each added two and Chloe Berrisford had six saves. Estabrook tallied five times to lead the way against Rio Mesa, with Saab scoring four goals, Sansing scoring three and Eschger, Brouwer, Nicole Kim and Samantha Rene each adding one.
Estabrook had three goals, Saab and Sansing each had two, Brouwer had one and Jessie Taft made three saves against Notre Dame, which led 8-2 at halftime, 11-4 through three quarters. The Knights went on to beat Temple City in the finals.
“We knew going into the game that Notre Dame would be tough,” Rene said. “It’s disappointing that our streak ended, but this doesn’t feel like a loss. We got behind 4-0 but then we settled down and told ourselves to look at the game as if it’s zero-zero. We ran lots of plays and did much better on defense in the second half, which shows how hard we’ve worked. We took a lot from this game and it’ll help prepare us for Eagle Rock or whoever we see in City.”
Palisades’ ultimate goal is to capture its first section title after coming up short in the finals five times, including last winter’s 9-8 loss to Eagle Rock after the start was delayed for over 30 minutes because the lights went out at Valley College. Estabrook scored five goals that night and is determined to make this the Dolphins’ year to lift the championship plaque.
“Tournaments are more tiring so you have to stay out of the sun and be able to warm up quicker,” said Estabrook, team co-captain with Rene. “When you haven’t played in over a week it takes a whole game to shake the rust. These games are shorter, you don’t know how tight the refs are going to call it and you have to use awareness and have the mindset that each and every game you have to prove yourself.”