Squad gears up for CIF Open Division playoffs

Squad gears up for CIF Open Division playoffs

MEERA MEERA ON THE WALL: Standout junior Meera Burghardt ’20 prepares to pass in the 12-3 win against Flintridge Sacred Heart High School on Jan. 17. After the win, the squad went on to beat Oaks Christian High School 13-12 Jan. 19 and Notre Dame 21-6 Jan. 22. Credit: Kyle Reims / Chronicle

The girls’ water polo team moved up into the CIF Open Division this year from Division III. The team has faced fiercer competition this season, leading them to a 12-10 record. Last year, they had the best season in school history and went 27-3 to reach the state finals. 

After securing a 21-6 win on Senior Night against Notre Dame on Jan 22., the team’s Mission League record remained undefeated at 5-0.

“It was super exciting to get a win on Senior Night,” Emily Hilliard ’19 said. “Notre Dame talks about beating us every year, and I think this game will finally be the end to that talk.”

After she finishes her senior season at Harvard-Westlake, Hilliard will continue her water polo career at Marist University.

“I knew since I started water polo in 7th grade that I wanted to play Division 1 college water polo,” Hilliard said. “With hard work and help from my teammates, I am proud to be ‘D1-bound’ for college.”

In addition, LaCour committed to the University of California San Diego.

After their senior night victory, the team increased their win streak to six games.

The team has completed all of their regular season league matches. The Mission League tournament began on Tuesday.

“For the rest of the season, our goal is to win Mission League, have fun and hopefully upset a few really good teams,” Taylor LaCour ’19 said.

The move into the top division in the CIF Southern Section has caused the team to embrace an underdog mentality, Hilliard said.

“Because this is our first year in the open division, we have absolutely nothing to lose,” Hilliard said. “We were picked last to move up into the division and started the year ranked in 24th place.”

The team is now ranked 14th in the Jan. 22 CIF Southern Section Poll.

As the team is nearing the completion of their first year in the CIF Southern Section’s most difficult division, Juliette O’Brien ’21 said that the team did more than just improve in the rankings.

“Since moving up to Division I, our team has really grown mentally and physically,” O’Brien said. “We have been doing a better job as the season has progressed by putting up with other teams that are ranked above us.”

The team finished their regular season schedule over the weekend with the completion of the Irvine Tournament. They lost their opening game to Orange Lutheran High School 10-6 at Foothill High School. On Friday, they lost a close game to La Canada High School 11-10 at Woolett Aquatics Center.

They are now focused on the Mission League tournament. If successful in the tournament, the team will advance into the CIF playoffs.

“Our goal this year has been very clear: mess up other people’s seasons and show these historically Division I teams that we are a force to be reckoned with,” Hilliard said.

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