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The Wilson girls’ water polo team once again asserted its dominance in the Moore League on Wednesday by beating Millikan 19-6 and winning a fourth consecutive league title. The Bruins have now finished atop the Moore League in 15 of the past 16 seasons.
“It’s really important to keep the Wilson dominance in Long Beach,” Wilson captain Maya O’Dea said. “We had a (players only team meeting) a few weeks ago, and it was a conversation so everyone had input and feedback. It really helped with our communication and confidence.”
Wilson was led by center Jermonie Billingsly and her game-high eight goals. Four of them came consecutively to start the second half. Her teammate Katherine O’Dea had a game-high five assists, and Maya O’Dea scored a hat trick in the first quarter.
“Our goal going into this game was to have rhythm and play loose as a team,” Billingsly said. “We thought they would drop back down, so I didn’t think we’d have much at the 2-meter. But I did.”
“She’s one of the best centers out there,” Wilson coach Barry O’Dea said. “She’s tough to guard and she’s growing up. That’s awesome to see.”
Millikan took a 1-0 lead on a 5-meter penalty shot from Avery Jensen, but Billingsly scored the next two goals off assists from Zoe Grover and goalkeeper Zoe Seaboch. The Bruins wouldn’t trail again. Jensen finished with a team-high three goals.
“It was our lack of ball awareness, we were throwing it away like it was a present,” Millikan coach Jose Guzman said. “The score of the game didn’t really (show) what was going on. We were blocking some tough shots out there and playing pretty good.”
Millikan goalkeeper Avery Reyes was strong throughout the game and finished with 12 saves. Wilson’s Seaboch was also great in the cage with eight saves and a few “hockey assists” on long counter attack passes.
“We’re starting to swim well, my centers are doing a really good job and my goalie is on fire,” coach O’Dea said of his team getting back into its rhythm this year. “It’s nice to see things getting ready to click as we close in on the playoffs.”
Millikan can also set its sights on the playoffs now as the No. 1 team in the latest CIF Southern Section Division 3 poll. Coach Guzman said he’s not worried about getting his team back up and ready for the postseason after losing a chance to upset Wilson. The Rams haven’t won the league title since 2006.
“I don’t always have to give them a pep talk,” Guzman said. “They have each other’s backs. That’s what I love about this group. They’re so close. We’ll come back stronger… That’s just our competitive nature.”
Wilson has had its competitive nature stoked recently after an impressive victory at Foothill last weekend. Coach O’Dea said that game has given his confidence.
“Our practices have been very tough as we try to get back into our rhythm, so we’ve been trying to push ourselves,” Billingsly said.
“It’s been hard but we’ve worked through it by lifting each other up with positivity and encouragement,” Maya O’Dea said. “Having that communication has helped us.”
The family dynamic within the program with coach O’Dea and his daughters, Maya and Katherine, has also been a factor as Wilson tries to peak at the right time.
“(My daughters) work their tails off and the other girls appreciate that about them so they want to match that,” coach O’Dea said. “We don’t talk about (them being my daughters) that much. I try not to make that a thing. I’m always self conscious about putting too much on my kids. The girls love Mya’s leadership.”
“It’s easier with my dad as head coach because the other girls listen to us and we have that influence as leaders,” Katherine O’Dea said.
“It changes our dynamic because our coach always treats us like we’re all his daughters,” Billingsly said. “So it feels more like we’re all a family because he’s so caring towards us.”
The CIF-SS girls’ water polo playoff brackets will be released on Feb. 7. Wilson is tied for No. 12 in the Division 1 poll.