MISSION VIEJO — Motivation is easy to find for the CdM Aquatics 18-and-under girls this weekend at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics.
CdM qualified ninth from the Southern Pacific zone in late June, with two of its three losses coming by a single goal. The result was disappointing, because only the top eight teams advanced to the championship division for Junior Olympics. CdM is stuck in the lower "classic" division.
CdM Coach Ross Sinclair said his girls definitely have had a little extra fire at the Junior Olympics.
"We definitely deserve to be [in the championship division], but it is what it is," Sinclair said. "I told them, 'Hey, we play at a level. The teams that we play, if they're at a lower level, we don't stoop down to their level. We play at our level.' They're playing with a little chip on their shoulder, which is good. We've kind of been the underdogs all summer, and now we're the [favorites] in this [classic division]. It's like, 'OK, let's prove that we are the best, not only by winning but by winning easily.'"
That last part has not been a problem for CdM. It eased into the classic division quarterfinals Friday at Trabuco Hills High. CdM topped San Diego Shores B, 13-6, before getting past C-Cal of Porterville, 12-5.
Incoming senior center Marina Coskinas scored a game-high four goals in the C-Cal game, and incoming junior Eliza Britt added three. Maddie Musselman, Shannon Frome, Kampbell Gritsch, Annie Mortimer and Averi Westerman added single goals for CdM, which jumped out to a 4-2 lead after a quarter and cruised from there.
CdM, made up of members of the Sea Kings' incoming high school team, will play in a quarterfinal match Saturday at noon at Woodbridge High. Sinclair said he was happy with his team's progress. Each of his team's four wins have come by at least seven goals.
"They're playing really well," Sinclair said. "It's the end of the summer, so we should be playing our best right now. We're pretty much there, which is good. There's always room for improvement, but they're doing well. They're staying focused. It's hard for age-group girls to stay focused for a long period of time, and they're doing a pretty good job of that."
Sinclair said he's relying on his four-member senior class, which includes Coskinas, Mortimer, Gritsch and Bobbi Hoose, to step up. Coskinas did that at center on Friday, drawing multiple exclusions and showing why she's a focal point of the Sea Kings' offense.
Coskinas will be the only returning starter from last year's CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship team. Britt and Musselman are the only other two returners who saw considerable playing time.
"Today we really clicked as a team," Coskinas said. "We're starting to work for each other. Our whole movement, it's almost like we're in sync with each other. It's really great. Ross has really brought our whole team to a whole other level. Everybody's wiling to help each other out; it's not just selfish play."
Coskinas highlighted what she meant in her next comment.
"Honestly, my success depends on everybody else," she said. "If they didn't step up their game this year, it wouldn't even matter how good of a player I became, because I wouldn't be able to get the ball. It's really because of them, the rest of the team, and how they push themselves."
Frome was active defensively as well for CdM, with three steals, and incoming sophomore goalie Heidi Ritner made a couple of nice saves.
In other Junior Olympics girls' and co-ed action:
The favorite in the 18U championship division probably remains SOCAL Black, which features recent Corona del Mar High graduates Cassidy Papa, Stephania Haralabidis and Ioanna Haralabidis, as well as Newport Harbor graduates Avery Peterson and Elissia Schilling. SOCAL Black won its two platinum division matches Friday, defeating CHAWP, 20-8, before topping Xtreme, 16-5.
SOCAL Black plays against Huntington Beach Blue in a quarterfinal match at 1 p.m. Saturday at Foothill High.
The Newport Water Polo Foundation 18U girls had a tough day Friday in the platinum division. They were edged by Rose Bowl, 7-6, before losing to top-seeded Santa Barbara A, 14-1, at Fullerton Community College. Newport's team then lost against Stanford A, 10-8, on Friday night in a play-in game. Ellie Reid scored three times for Newport in the final game, with fellow incoming junior Chanel Schilling scoring twice. Christina O'Beck, Rachel Whitelegge and Heidi Fults all added goals.
The best Newport can finish in the tournament is 13th place. Newport's next match is at noon Saturday, against Santa Clara Valley at Beckman High.
Santa Barbara A, which features recent Newport Harbor graduate Carly Christian, plays SET in a quarterfinal match at noon Saturday at Foothill High.
The Newport 16U girls won their first three classic division matches before falling to International, 9-6, on Friday. Newport can still reach the gold-medal match with four straight wins; its next match is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Mission Viejo High.
Newport's 10-and-under co-ed team is 3-1 in the championship division. Newport has a quarterfinal match at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, at Tustin High. Costa Mesa Aquatics' co-ed team also has a quarterfinal match at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, against Trojan.
CdM's 10-and-under co-ed team, coached by long-time CdM youth coach Ted Bandaruk, is 2-2 in the championship division and can also reach the gold-medal match with four straight victories. CdM's 10Us play next at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at El Toro High.
Costa Mesa Aquatics' 12-and-under girls' team can win the gold division with three more victories.