JSerra girls water polo sinks La Jolla for first CIF State SoCal Regional victory

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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — JSerra’s girls water polo team continued its ascent on Tuesday by adding another achievement to a growing resume.

Junior Sydney Chapman and freshman Sloane Paulson each scored three goals as the Lions notched their first victory in the CIF State SoCal Regional tournament with an 8-5 victory against visiting La Jolla in a Division II opener.

JSerra (27-4) defeated the semifinalists from the San Diego Open Division just three days after claiming its first CIF-SS championship with a 13-5 win against Sunny Hills in the Division 3 final.

“Coming from Division 5 last year to winning CIF Division 3 this year, we just want to keep working up,” Chapman said, “and keep getting more (accomplished). We’re going to keep going.

“I think we’ll do really well in Division 1 next year,” she added. “We’re going to keep developing as a team.”

The fourth-seeded Lions advanced to Thursday’s semifinals at No. 1 El Camino of Oceanside, another Open Division semifinalists from San Diego. The Trinity League team won without Coach Natalie Seidemann, who had a scheduling conflict, assistant Zach Roper said.

El Camino edged Coronado 4-3 in another first-round game.

JSerra made its decisive move late in the third period with a pair of goals off its counterattack.

Paulson snapped a 4-4 deadlock with a counterattack strike with 1:39 left in the quarter. Freshman center Kamryn McCord netted the eventual game-winning goal on a penalty shot with 28 seconds left in the frame, converting a 5-meter chance draw on the counter by Paulson.

The penalty shot opened a 6-4 advantage and came after Chapman used her legs to rise high out of the water to steal a pass in the backcourt. Chapman, a defender, finished with five steals.

“That was a lot of working together,” Paulson said of the sequence.

End of 3rd: ⁦@JSerraAthletics⁩ 6 La Jolla 5, good match as expected, LJ was semifinalist in Open in San Diego ⁦@ocvarsity⁩ 💦

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) February 22, 2023

La Jolla trimmed the lead to 6-5 with a strike from junior Austin Milligan with 13 seconds left in the third but the Lions’ defense didn’t allow another goal. Senior goalie Micaela Martz made four of her 12 saves in the fourth to anchor the defensive stand.

McCord, daughter of former Saddleback coach Monte McCord, provided a key offensive play in the final period, passing the ball out from center to Paulson on the wing for a goal early in the frame.

In the field, JSerra blended freshmen Paulson and McCord with juniors Chapman and Zoe Gabriel and seniors Sophia Balkhi and Lindsay Hughes. The Lions also played freshman Sayre Duran — perhaps their goalie of the future — in the field.

“(Seidemann) is big on team bonding,” Paulson said of her team’s chemistry. “She’s really helped us grow closer.”

La Jolla showed its own young talent. The Vikings competed without a senior and received nine blocks, including one against a penalty, by freshman goalie Lucia Vega.

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