Costa Mesa High girls' water polo coach Tim Postiff and senior Devon Christensen both used the word "youth" after the game.
The Mustangs' youth provides hope for the future, but it also was their undoing Tuesday evening in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 wild-card game.
Visiting Woodbridge jumped out to an early lead and posted a 16-4 victory at Costa Mesa High, ending Costa Mesa's season.
Sophomore Shawna Kedzie paced the Warriors (13-10) with five goals, all in the first half.
"They had some sold players, so we knew what we were going to be up against," Postiff said. "It was a matter of shutting [Kedzie] down, and we just didn't do it."
Costa Mesa (9-17) played without two starters, juniors Hayley Peterson and Kirsten Gyorgy. Postiff said that Peterson was visiting colleges in the Bay Area.
The Mustangs, the third-place team from the Orange Coast League, were behind by three goals before Christensen scored their first goal, from the left with 3:55 to play in the first quarter.
Twice in the opening frame, Mesa junior Lauren Smith drew exclusions, but the Mustangs couldn't capitalize on their six-on-five chances. The quarter ended with Woodbridge up, 7-1.
Alexa Clayfield and Tina Frechette also scored four goals in the contest for the Warriors, an at-large team after finishing fourth in the Pacific Coast League. The balanced scoring pleased Woodbridge Coach Jared Gray. So did the fact that his usual junior varsity goalie, sophomore Hannah Leeper, made seven saves. Leeper filled in after the starting keeper, junior Courtney McNatt, was a late scratch due to sickness.
"She played great," Gray said of Leeper, who needed to make just one save in the first half. "She had no notice. We found this out right as we were getting on the bus."
Costa Mesa fell behind, 11-1, at halftime. Senior Jenesa Ramirez, Smith and junior Bridgette Smitheram added second-half goals for the Mustangs, while goalie Antonia Velasquez made three goals and had two steals.
The Mustangs were already young this season, but Christensen (cracked ribs and a concussion) and Ramirez (elbow) both missed substantial time during the season as well.
"We lost a lot of people this year," Christensen said. "We had four seniors this year, and we ended up with just me and Jenesa. There were a lot of changes ... it was kind of like a [situation where we wanted to] just make sure the younger girls learn something. I think we did all right, for how young our team is. I think we could have done better sometimes, but I think we still had the moments where we're like, 'Yeah, that was cool.' We had fun, and I think that's what counts."
Smith returning will help the Mustangs. She also had six steals and two field blocks in Tuesday's game.
Postiff, who has led Mesa to the postseason 11 times in his 12-year tenure, said he is optimistic for the future. His backup goalie, freshman Michelle Vu, got some playing time in the fourth quarter and recorded a save.
"I'm happy with the season, because we're young," he said. "We're only losing two players. We had some freshmen and sophomores play in this game today, and we're bringing back a good core of juniors with [Melissa Folkerts] and Lauren and Hayley and Toni."
Woodbridge plays at second-seeded Foothill in a Division 1 first-round match Wednesday.