COSTA MESA — Newport Harbor High sophomore Carlee Kapana could be a varsity starter on the majority of girls' water polo teams in Orange County.
The Sailors have another great goalie playing on varsity, junior Cleo Harrington. Kapana plays on the junior varsity, and she said she's cool with it.
It makes sense. The Sailors also have a JV team that could beat the majority of girls' water polo teams in Orange County.
They beat two of them Saturday at Costa Mesa High. Kapana helped lead the way as Newport Harbor's JV squad beat Beckman, 14-6, to win the Costa Mesa Classic Lil' Pickle Showdown for the second straight year.
Earlier Saturday, Newport's JV beat Costa Mesa, 11-1. The Mustangs finished fourth in their host tournament after losing to Foothill's JV team, 12-3, in the third-place match.
Newport Harbor's undefeated JV squad (12-0) won its second tournament in three weeks, as the Sailors captured the Estancia JV tournament last weekend. The team is full of girls with a bright future in the sport. Lefty Ellie Reid scored a game-high five goals in the title-game win over Beckman (10-3). Fellow sophomores Chanel Schilling and Kate Pipkin added four and three scores, respectively.
Reid did most of her damage on quick strikes from the perimeter. Schilling, who scored the game-winning goal in the tournament title match last year against Harvard-Westlake, was very effective at two meters. She drew three Patriots exclusions as well as two five-meter penalty shots.
Both Reid and Schilling have older sisters who have won CIF Southern Section Division 1 titles with Newport Harbor. Erin Reid helped the 2008 Sailors capture the crown, and current Harbor senior center Elissia Schilling helped last year's Sailors win the title.
The younger Schilling said she is more of a turner at two meters, while her sister prefers to take backhand shots. As Elissia watched from the stands, Chanel kept the Sailors in the game early, scoring four goals in the first half.
"I decided I needed to keep coming back and score another one," Chanel Schilling said. "It just kept going back and forth, and I really wanted to break open the score. That's really what fueled me."
But the Sailors broke it open after Beckman sophomore Nikki Daurio scored on a rebound to make the score 5-5 in the second quarter. Newport Harbor went on a 9-0 run. The defensive effort centered around Kapana, who made 15 saves and added three steals.
Kapana, 15, recently returned from Australia, where she said she was the youngest player for the U.S. women's youth national team at the FINA Youth World Championships. Team USA got fourth.
Kapana is a key reason why Newport Coach Brian Melstrom said this is probably the best Sailors JV squad in his 10 years coaching.
"She came back [from Australia] with a little bit more confidence, from what I've seen," Melstrom said. "Obviously, that gives us the advantage against almost every team in goal. She's a high-level varsity level player, it's just unfortunate she's not getting any minutes. She probably would if we had more goalies in the program, but we only have two goalies for three levels.
"It brings a whole new opportunity to run different defenses. We like to press, but if we have to drop, we will ... Being able to drop and not just get lit up is really important. With her, that's the dynamic she brings. She's really aggressive and gets up on her legs well, and she's getting better at guarding the lob shot. Just a lot of improvement. She's taking it in stride, you know? She's a sophomore, and I think she really enjoys playing with this group of girls in her class. It's not like she's upset that she's not getting varsity playing time. I think with her ODP exposure, she's not missing out on getting looked at. No doubt she's got a bright future."
Juniors Maddie Goodell and Sydney Kohlenberger both added goals for the Sailors against Beckman. Newport Harbor also got contributions from junior Ivy Vega, as well as sophomores Isabel Leveque and Emma Erickson.
Pipkin scored a game-high four goals in the semifinal win over Costa Mesa, while Schilling scored three times and Kohlenberger twice. Kapana made 10 saves, including one on a penalty shot.
Newport Harbor is cruising. The Sailors have beat rival Corona del Mar twice in the past week. That includes a win by a comfortable margin, 10-2, in the Battle of the Bay game on Friday night.
"I feel like we're really good as a team," Kapana said. "We bond a lot, too, and that helps us in the pool. I think our offense is really strong, which helps us. We've been playing for a long time together, most of us since we were 10 years old."
Costa Mesa (8-6) had a tough two-game stretch against Newport and Foothill's JV squads. Senior Alicia Rederscheid had the team's lone goal against Newport Harbor, adding seven steals. Junior goalie Kaitlyn Hill had five saves and three steals.
Rederscheid, senior Aubry Hill and sophomore Lauren Smith all scored against Foothill JV. Kaitlyn Hill made eight saves.
"We were very flat today, and I think a lot of it had to do with the pressure that was applied by both Foothill and Newport," Costa Mesa Coach Tim Postiff said. "They're both well-coached, they're both up there high in the lanes and ready to counterattack. Both of them countered us hard in the first quarter, and basically put us in a ditch we were never going to get out of."
The Mustangs return to action with their annual trip to the Arroyo Grande tournament on Jan. 3.
Newport Harbor's JV team, meanwhile, is entered into another varsity tournament next weekend, the Holiday Cup. The action there figures to be a lot more competitive; the Newport JVs open with Santa Barbara, ranked No. 5 in Division 1.
But the experience of playing varsity opponents is a good thing for the Sailors.
"We've been training pretty hard," Ellie Reid said. "We're beginning to be able to actually use what we've been learning in practice."