June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Strong defense in second half helps Rosary edge Northwood in CIF Division 4 final

Rosary players and coaches with the CIF championship plaque after the match. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Rosary’s girls water polo team came close to winning a CIF title last year.

This year, the Royals were able to complete the task defeating Northwood 8-6 in the CIF Division 4 final Saturday morning at Mt. San Antonio College.

Northwood was competing in the CIF finals for the first time in school history after missing out on securing a playoff berth last season. The farthest Northwood had been before this year was the second round. Rosary was able to record another CIF title after losing to Pasadena Poly 10-9 in last year’s CIF Division 5 final.

“We’re super, super happy, last year we got to the finals and lost by a goal,” said Rosary Coach Gabriel Martinez. “That was a tough game to lose. I thought today, after we made a defensive adjustment, we did a really good job of getting control of the game and getting really good shots off.

“Some of them went in and some of them didn’t. But I thought our girls kept competing, especially in the defensive end. It was a scoreless third quarter, but we had a lot of quality shots that we just missed. But I thought our defense, once we made our adjustment, our defense controlled Northwood.”

The teams were tied at halftime 5-5. Neither squad scored in the third quarter but Rosary outscored Northwood 2-1 in the final stanza to bring home the title.

Alexis Velazquez scored off a steal with 1:18 left to put the Royals ahead 7-6, then Spencer Anne Thiemann had an insurance goal with about 40 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

It marked the end of a special season for a young Northwood team, which knocked off top-seeded Santiago Wednesday in the semifinals to advance.

“It was a really good defensive battle,” said Northwood Coach Kyle Kim-E. “We knew both teams had really good offense so it was a chess game of trying to stop everyone. It kind of came down to penalties and our goalie had some amazing blocks and their goalie too. I think penalties could have switched up the momentum a little bit, but I’m still really proud of our girls.

“What’s really special is that this team last year didn’t even qualify for the playoffs so for all of them to return and go all the way to the finals is really special. It was a lot of back and forth and it basically became a swim meet out there and we were trying to push the counter, but it’s hard when they did a great job of covering us and did a good job of covering our drives.”

Rosary players celebrated the title as they received their championship trophy on the pool deck.

“It’s really special to me, I’ve never made it this far, especially transferring to a new school,” said Madilyn Ekstrom, who led Rosary with three goals. “It’s so special, all the hard work we put in, from the start of August, until now. It makes me very happy that it paid off. We had everybody playing as one, it’s so special to me.

“We just kept our composure and kept looking for good, quality shots. Really focusing on defense helped us break through in that fourth quarter.”

Emma Aljurdi and Velazquez had two goals each for Rosary (20-9).

Northwood (23-10) was led by Yoshi Elseifi, who had three goals and Nina Elias, who had two goals.

“Yoshi is one of our captains and she’s close to 200 goals on the season, she’s been the weight of our offense and we’re proud to send her off with this finalist appearance,” Kim-E said. “Nina is a junior, so we get her back. She’s a really strong two-meter defender and our other co-captain Audrey (Mariano) also stepped up for us playing some good offense and defense.”

Mariano converted a penalty kick with five minutes left to put Northwood ahead 6-5 before Royal battled back. Both teams struggled making penalty shots during the match.

Rosary will advance into next week’s CIF Southern California regional.

For best view, click on the photo:

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com