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The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
The Wilson Bruins looked every bit like the No. 1 seed in the CIF-SS Division 1 girls’ water polo playoffs on Wednesday night, outclassing Yucaipa in a 13-3 win at the LBCC pool.
It took about five minutes for the Bruins to crack the scoreboard against the Thunderbirds and superstar goalie Christine Carpenter, which is about as close to a blemish as you could find for Wilson in their comfortable semifinal victory.
“I’m really, really pleased,” said Wilson head coach Barry O’Dea. “We’ve just been really dialed in on working defense and the girls have been so awesome for the last three weeks–responding to our literature we’re putting out, they’re reading it, they’re watching their game film, they’re coming to practice prepared and ready. There were so many things that were really dialed into what we’ve prepped the last few days for.”
Wilson was able to take a 3-0 lead after the first quarter thanks to a pair of goals by Zoe Grover, and one from Maya O’Dea. The last of the trio came from Grover on a beautiful assist from O’Dea, just as the first quarter buzzer sounded.
That lead grew to 5-0 on goals from Katherine O’Dea and Hannah Szeszulski before Yucaipa was able to crack the scoreboard, and the Bruins led 6-1 at the half, getting yet another buzzer beater from Jermonie Billingsly just before the break. Wilson continued to move the ball well and score in a variety of ways as they led 10-2 after three quarters before winning by the double-digit margin.
It was an impressive offensive performance by the Bruins as they outshot the Thunderbirds 34-20. Wilson was certainly aware of Carpenter’s talent in the cage, but the hosts had a nice showing against the Stanford-bound senior who is also the starting goalie for Team USA’s Women’s Youth National Team.
“She’s awesome, and that had me up all night last night,” Barry O’Dea admitted. “Because she gets everything high. But we got the right shots off and we had the good passes tonight.”
Maya O’Dea led the way for the Bruins with 5 goals while also adding a pair of assists and a pair of steals. Her younger sister, Katherine, added a pair of goals along with Grover and Billingsly.
“It’s a total team effort right now,” said Barry O’Dea. “ A total team effort. And even to our group that’s in practice, the JV girls who are playing up, they’re doing such a good job in practice putting things in place for us to play against. And then they get in and they know what they’re doing. It’s just good stuff all the way around, I’m really happy with the program right now.”
Coach O’Dea praised his team’s performance from top to bottom, shouting out players like Grover, who he said was “awesome” on Wednesday, along with both his daughters, his two centers, and goalie Charlotte Echlin, who finished with 6 saves.
Carpenter, meanwhile, had 11 saves for Yucaipa. Esther Crandall, Bella Landeros and Sammi Byers were the goal scorers for the defending CIF-SS Division 2 champions.
Wilson is now headed to the CIF-SS title game on Saturday against Santa Margarita, a team they beat on two separate occasions back in January. The key for the Bruins comes down to one word according to Coach O’Dea.
“Consistency,” he said. “That has been our theme all year. And our last two weeks have been really consistent … So consistency, and just keep buying into what we’re doing as a team.”
The Bruins will face Santa Margarita at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine on Saturday, looking for their first CIF title since 2018. Game time is TBA.