SANTA BARBARA — Corona del Mar High girls' water polo coach Ross Sinclair was not exactly happy after watching his team give an uninspired effort early Saturday afternoon in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions semifinals.
Losing by four goals to rival Newport Harbor, 7-3, did not sit well with Sinclair. The Sailors held CdM sophomore Maddie Musselman scoreless for the first time this season. Musselman did draw six exclusions, but the Sea Kings converted just two of seven power-play opportunities.
In short, it was nothing like CdM's 7-5 win in the Battle of the Bay game a month earlier.
"Offensively and defensively, we just poorly executed in all aspects of the game," Sinclair said. "If we could get [six-on-five] figured out we'd be pretty dangerous … We just have players that don't want to, I don't think, realize that they have to step up. They're more worried about making the mistake. We're really passive on the six-on-five.
"We need other people to step up. We've won without [Musselman]. It's not like it's a one-man show. We have a team. Right now, I think if things don't go our way, people naturally go into their shell and expect someone else to do it, as opposed to themselves."
The good part for the Sea Kings was that they bounced back just two hours later, holding on to defeat San Clemente, 6-5, in the Tournament of Champions third-place game at Santa Barbara High. Musselman and senior center Marina Coskinas earned all-tournament team recognition for the second-seeded Sea Kings (11-3).
To be sure, Musselman was more of a factor offensively against San Clemente, scoring four goals. She also added three steals and two field blocks.
"We wanted to come out hard and show that we still had the energy to finish out the tournament," Musselman said. "Even though we lost, we can end with a good win."
Coskinas and Grace Morgan each added goals in the third-place game, with Coskinas drawing two exclusions and two penalty shots. Junior Averi Westerman, who recently became eligible after transferring in to CdM, had a pair of assists.
San Clemente, which upset Foothill on Friday in its first game, used a goal by Brigette Kimbrough with 24 seconds left in the game to cut its deficit to 6-5. But CdM would hang on, despite nearly turning the ball over out of an ensuing timeout.
CdM sophomore goalie Heidi Ritner also had a standout game, making 10 saves.
"You guys owe Heidi your life," Sinclair told his players on the bench midway through the fourth quarter, after she stuffed a San Clemente six-on-five shot at the post.
"I'll tell you one thing, I'm extremely happy that she's my goalie," Sinclair said of Ritner after the game. "She's awesome. She works really hard, and she's a great teammate. She's everything you want in a player, from a coaching perspective and from a teammate perspective."
CdM fell behind 5-2 at halftime against Newport Harbor earlier Saturday in the semifinals. Eliza Britt skipped in a shot with 1:54 left in the third quarter, again bringing CdM within three goals at 6-3, but the Sea Kings were unable to get closer.
The Sailors' Christina O'Beck and Heidi Fults each had a game-high three goals. Britt scored twice in the game, with junior Grace Morgan adding a goal. Ritner made eight saves.
For most of the Sea Kings, this was their first experience in the Tournament of Champions. But bringing up youth doesn't really go too far when the season already is at least half over.
"It's time," Sinclair said after the semifinal loss. "It's CdM. There's no rebuilding; we don't rebuild. Just because a lot of these girls might have all of their experience on JV, they're still expected to fulfill that legacy of CdM water polo. At this part of the season, we've been playing enough water polo where the bar has been raised, and they should be at that level."