Newport Harbor's Avery Peterson battles for possession of a ball against Foothill's Hannah Lapkin during a nonleague game at Newport Harbor High on Friday. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / December 14, 2012)

NEWPORT BEACH — He may have seen his team let a one-goal lead slip through its grasp at home, but there was no panic from Newport Harbor girls' water polo coach Bill Barnett.

After all, it was just the Sailors' second game of the season.

"It's very early in the year," Barnett said. "We played hard but didn't play well at times."

Newport fought through its struggles and a pair of two-goal deficits to nearly knock off Foothill, which came into the game undefeated and ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 1. The Knights refused to go home empty handed, though, as they pulled out the nail-biting 9-8 overtime win Friday.

It looked as if the Sailors were going to overcome the 6-4 hole they found themselves in at halftime, when Newport's Elissia Schilling pushed her team's run to 3-0 when she scored off a pass from Avery Peterson with 30 seconds left in regulation.

The goal ended a four-minute, 27-second scoring drought and gave the home team a 7-6 lead, as Schilling watched her shot go between the hands of Foothill goalie Kelsey Rowland.

Foothill (4-0) pushed its way back up the pool and got the ball to Hannah Lapkin, who tied with teammate Cana Manzella and Schilling with a game-high three goals, right in front of Newport's cage on a dish from Ashley Zwirner.

"We couldn't stop the ball at all," Barnett said. "They did a much better job at getting the ball to [Lapkin] in front of the goal."

Lapkin scored with little trouble as a result to tie the game at 7 with 12 seconds left in regulation.

"I am excited," Foothill Coach Jeff Colton said of the win. "Thirty seconds left in the game we're down by one and we get out with a win. You can't complain about that."

The Knights built on the momentum when they scored 38 seconds into overtime on a counterattack goal from Brenna Thomas, as Newport Harbor turned the ball over after winning the opening sprint.

The No. 4-ranked Sailors (1-1) responded a minute later when Rachael Whitelegge cashed in a six-on-five opportunity on an assist from Carly Christian.

Goals remained hard to come by in the second three-minute overtime period, in which the first seven possessions didn't yield a goal. Newport goalie Cleo Harrington (six saves) came up with a big save on a five-meter shot from Manzella with 2:04 left to play.

The Sailors had a chance to pull ahead when they earned a man-advantage opportunity with 1:30 to go, but the ensuing shot was off the mark.

The Knights found themselves on a six-on-five with 18 seconds to go when they drew an exclusion on a break down the pool following a block from Rowland, who finished with 10 saves and two steals.

It allowed Foothill to call timeout and draw up a play that led to a Manzella goal off a pass from Thomas with six seconds left in the match.

Newport Harbor's desperation shot with two ticks left was off target.

While each loss is disappointing, Barnett saw two changes Newport can make now on both sides of the ball to improve for the season ahead.

"There were too many outside shots that went over the goal," he said. "We didn't even make the goalie stop them. Our defense allowed them to take the ball inside and get good looks in front of the cage."

Things were tied, 1-1, going into the second quarter after goals from Lapkin and Newport's Carolyn Smith (two goals) in the opening period. Foothill went on a 3-1 run in the second quarter with goals from Manzella, Zwirner and Nikki Stanstiek.

The Sailors rebounded and tied the game. 4-4, on two goals from Smith and Schilling in the first 2:09 of the second half.

Foothill pushed its advantage back to two with consecutive goals from Manzella and Lapkin before Newport went on its 3-0 spurt with goals from Peterson, Carly Christian and Schilling.

andrew.shortall@latimes.com

Twitter: @TCNShortall