Cal High beats top-seed Costa Mesa for CIF title
WHITTIER – California High School junior Victoria Padilla had been there before, on the deck of a CIF-Southern Section water polo championship.
However, it was as a sophomore stat girl for her brother Jesus’ team in 2018 when the Cal boys won the Division 5 title.
This year, the junior was a major part of the Condors run through the playoffs and eventual Division 5 Girls Water Polo championship Saturday (Feb. 22) over top-seed Costa Mesa, 10-6, at the William J. Woollett Aquatics Center.
“Victoria was a difference-maker,” said Cal High fourth-year coach Davey Brown, who also won as the boys coach in 2018.
“She started three years ago and she gave it her all. She helped this years’ seniors prepare for this year.”
For her efforts, Padilla was named CIF-SS Division 5 Most Valuable Player.
Padilla, along with teammate, Myah Ibarra, each scored four goals, along with one from Lynsie Barragan and Jimena Vargas. All three were named to the All-CIF team.
Cal (24-8), seeded No. 8, will continue its season with a CIF Division II Southern California Championship quarterfinal game Friday (Feb. 28) at No. 1 Seed Cathedral Catholic (12-9) of San Diego.
In the championship game against Costa Mesa (24-7), the Condors trailed, 2-1 after the first period. “It was a very defensive period and it was four minutes before we scored,” said Brown, who was chosen as Division 5 Coach of the Year. “All of my girls played great defense throughout the playoffs.”
Cal High senior goalie Leslie Meza, who was also named to the All-CIF team, led the defensive play. “That’s the reason we made it so far,” Brown added. “The goalkeeper was a big factor.”
The Condors then went on a goal-scoring barrage with eight goals in the next two periods, for the 9-4 lead heading into the fourth period.
“Obviously it was a nail-biter early, but I could finally breathe a little heading into the fourth quarter,” Brown said. “We controlled the fourth quarter and didn’t run much offense.”
With Cal leading, 9-6 in the fourth, Padilla put an exclamation point on the title, with a penalty-shot goal with 1:30 left for the 10-6 final score.
In the game, Vargas, Ibarra and Padilla all drew penalty shots and Padilla converted on all three for goals.
“Victoria took on a Kobe (Bryant)-like Mamba mentality in the game and took it upon herself and led the team in positioning and she just took over,” Brown said.
After three years of not advancing past the first round or wild card, Brown was relieved of his teams’ success.
“Honestly, I was ecstatic (on the win), but was frustrated during those years. My wife (Jiri) pushed me through it and in addition Chloe (Rodriguez) was there from the beginning.”