SANTA BARBARA — On Friday night at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, Corona del Mar High girls' water polo Coach Sam Bailey said his squad played like individuals instead of a team.
On Saturday afternoon, Bailey saw the opposite. In fact, during a fifth-place semifinal against Los Alamitos, he saw what he said was a defining moment for his team.
The player who provided the moment during a break in the action was senior Ioanna Haralabidis.
"I felt that all of [my teammates] did a very good job and wanted to win so badly," Haralabidis said. "I wanted to show them how [much of] a great job they did, by going around and just grabbing their head and telling them how good they were. They were exhausted, but they were fighting. I was so proud of my team."
Bailey was proud, too, after his Sea Kings placed fifth. CdM edged Los Alamitos, 5-4, before beating Laguna Beach, 10-6, in the fifth-place match at Santa Barbara High.
Haralabidis was an all-tournament team selection for CdM.
"It was really cool to see the way that the team responded, and to see the way that Ioanna responded to that moment," Bailey said. "She's very deserving."
Host Santa Barbara won the TOC title for the first time since 2004. The Dons, featuring Cal-bound tournament MVP Maddie Trabucco in goal, defeated Newport Harbor, 7-5, in the title match.
CdM (11-3) deserved the fifth-place finish after rebounding from Friday's 7-6 quarterfinal loss to rival Newport Harbor. Many, including Newport Harbor Coach Bill Barnett, have called CdM the team to beat in CIF Southern Section Division 1 after the USC-bound Greek twins, Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis, became eligible Jan. 1.
But Friday night's loss was Bailey's first big high school game with his full team.
"There's obviously a target on this team's back," Bailey said. "People are going to come out and give us their best game, day in and day out. I can read the quotes in the paper. Obviously, people are excited to come out and play us. Apparently, there was a feeling that CdM was invincible, you know, but that's obviously not the case.
"Perhaps some of the girls on the team felt that they were invincible. A small serving of humble pie at this point in the season is not a bad thing … [but] to come back and to respond to such adversity, it shows a lot of heart by the girls. I think that they showed that if they continue to compete for each other and push each other, that very good things will come in the near future."
Stephania (three) goals and Ioanna (two) scored all of the Sea Kings' goals against Los Alamitos. Senior Cassidy Papa had three steals and an assist, and senior Erica Weed made three saves.
The Sea Kings' lead against Laguna Beach in the fifth-place match was cut to 5-4 early in the third quarter, as Laguna's Lexie del Toro scored on a lob. But CdM scored the next four goals to seize control, including strikes from Papa, Genevieve Weed, Ally McCormick and finally Ioanna Haralabidis in transition.
Papa, McCormick, Maddie Musselman and Morgan Stewart each scored twice for CdM. Musselman had a strong match, as she drew three exclusions and a five-meter penalty shot. Junior center Marina Coskinas also drew a pair of exclusions, and Genevieve Weed had two field blocks.
Erica Weed made nine saves for CdM, which continues to play without senior Caitlin Brandenberger (back).