All of The562’s water polo coverage for the 2021-22 school year is sponsored by Aqualand. Visit AqualandOfTheFree.com to learn more.
When it comes to high school water polo in Long Beach, Wilson has always been the team to beat. That notion was on full display at the Belmont on Friday where Wilson girls water polo opened its season with an 18-8 victory over San Clemente.
In the first half, Wilson was led by juniors Zoe Grover and Maya O’ Dea and senior goalkeeper Zoe Seaboch. Grover filled the stat sheet with four goals, three steals, and three assists, while O’ Dea tallied three goals, two steals, and three assists. Seaboch had 11 saves including two 5-meter penalty blocks.
The Bruins led through the entire match but were never able to extend their lead past three which kept the game close till the 3rd quarter. San Clemente’s offense revolved around Cal commit Nieve Courtney who had five goals. However, defensive adjustments shut down Courtney, holding her scoreless in the 4th quarter.
“We would jump out and they would catch up, so we finally went to a straight matchup,” Wilson coach Barry O’ Dea said. “We put our better defenders on their two best players and we were able just to break out.”
Those adjustments would blow the doors open for Wilson, helping them go on a 9-0 run, holding San Clemente scoreless in the final quarter and giving the Bruins the victory.
“That [adjustment] enabled us to shut down their offense and gain momentum for our offense,” Maya O’ Dea said. “We got the ball in center and finished well or drew ejections to execute our six on five.”
Wilson’s national team center Jermonie Billingsly would get in foul trouble early in the match however sophomore Emily Crabari would fill the void in center, scoring four goals.
“Crabari came up big for us tonight,” coach O’ Dea said. “She had to fill some big minutes when Monie got in foul trouble and she did it. She got some work done down in 2-meters and really helped us.”
Billingsly would re-enter and score five goals in the second half to lead all Bruins while senior Isabella Reina would have three steals on three straight San Clemente possessions late in the 4th.
Wilson’s season opener showcased many of the team’s strengths but also highlighted some of its weaknesses that the players and coaches want to address.
“I think we have a little bit more work to do on our five man defense,” coach O’ Dea said. “We didn’t react quick enough and it gave them a couple good looks so we just need to clean up our five man a little bit.”
“We’re definitely going to work on our drive defense,” Grover said. “Setting up for our plays on sprints and after goal plays are definitely things we’ll work on”
Wilson will travel to Peninsula high school on November 30th.