As the clock wound down to the final minute of the third quarter with Malibu in the lead, junior Lezly Plahn threw the defining shot of the game, scoring from half-court and tieing the score. It was “the most exciting” part of the game, according to Coach Samantha Marinaro, since the Dragons fell behind earlier that quarter.
“It got us back in the game, like, ‘Boom! We’re back! We were down by two [points] and now here it is. Let’s go!’” she said.
At the final home game of the season on Wednesday, the varsity girls’ water polo team played against their “hardest competition,” Malibu High School. The Dragons defeated the Sharks with a final score of 8-6.
After seniors on both teams were honored, the first quarter began with Plahn scoring the first goal of the game within ten seconds. Less than two minutes later, Plahn scored again, followed by Malibu’s first goal. No point was scored when Malibu was given a penalty throw, but the Sharks retaliated by making a goal in the last second of the seven-minute quarter.
Foothill gained possession of the ball first at the start of the second quarter, but even after multiple attempts from both teams, no goal was scored. Senior Vanessa Villalpando was ejected, or taken out of the game temporarily for playing too roughly, for the second time.
Plahn then scored Foothill’s third point with 3:40 left on the clock. A minute later, once Plahn was also ejected, Malibu scored again. Sophomore Jaina Malach scored her first goal of the game, followed by Malibu ending the first half with a tying goal 13 seconds later and a score of 4-4.
Malibu scored two more goals within the first three minutes of the third quarter, pulling ahead of Foothill. After a failed penalty shot for Foothill and other attempts, Plahn scored twice in a row, thirty seconds between each other, securing the score.
Assistant Principal Ron Briggs noticed the “high intensity at the end” of the game.
“They shifted gears during the middle of the fourth quarter and did what [they had to do,]” said Briggs.
In the first twenty seconds of the final quarter of the game, Villalpando broke the tie by scoring Foothill’s seventh goal. The last goal was made by junior Meagan McKillican, thirty seconds later.
After Malibu tried three more times to overcome the Dragons, the game ended with a final score of 8-6. Coach Marinaro thought that the game was “definitely a nail biter.”
“We had some off moments but then we had some very glorious moments. So overall, they played amazing,” she said. “They did what they needed to do […] They wanted [to win] the most and I think they overplayed [Malibu].”
Sophomore Aariana Saunders believed that the team worked their hardest to defeat the Sharks.
“We definitely tried our hardest and in the end, we came out on top,” she said.
Marinaro observed the shifts of tone during the game and how the girls reacted to Malibu’s competition.
“I think [the tone] at the beginning of the game was nervousness, especially how [the score] was still tied,” she said. “But I can feel that the girls wanted it, that extra mile.”
“Especially at the start of the fourth quarter, I think [the tone] was just excitement,” she continued. “[They thought] ‘why are we still tied? We have this. We are better than this.’ So as fourth quarter went on, their excitement hit the roof.”
Goalie and sophomore Taylor Wreesman believes that the team still needs to improve on the “basics” of water polo, especially since Foothill will advance into the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) championships.
“We’re really working on [shooting and passing] in our practices,” she said. “We’re trying to work on every single aspect [of the game] and a lot of the fundamentals.”
Marinaro hopes everyday that no matter what happens in practice or during a game, she teaches the team “the love of [water polo].”
“There are these moments like out here where, yeah, it’s stressful,” she said. “But when it’s over, I want [them] to fall in love with it and do it all over again. So just that love and passion, that’s what I like to teach.”
To Wreesman, her favorite part of the season was the family-like bond that formed within the team.
“We had some trouble with the team with clicks but we got over ourselves and really bonded,” she said. “I hope that in CIF, we really come together more as a team.”
Wishing to follow last year’s path, Marinaro is thrilled to play the games leading leading up to the final championship game.
“[We’re hoping for] CIF baby!” she said. “Right now our main goal is to see how far we can go and play until they tell us we can’t no more.”
Background Photo Credit: Suvee Ranasinghe/The Foothill Dragon Press