Malibu High’s girls water polo team began its regular season finale by honoring its five seniors. The squad ended the contest celebrating a league championship.
Sharks 12th graders Brenna Sinding, Gracie Kinyon, Rayah Duane, Rayna Ney and Zoe Detweiler were recognized before Malibu’s one-point victory over the Foothill Tech Dragons at the Malibu pool on Feb. 8. Ney and Detweiler scored Malibu’s first two goals in the match-up that ended with Malibu claiming a 7-6 victory and the Tri-Valley League crown.
Malibu coach Hayden Goldberg said winning the league title over Foothill Tech, the Tri-Valley’s top team a year ago, caused a rush of emotions.
“Winning league was one of my goals going into coaching four years ago,” he said. “Last year, we came very close to winning it, so this year I knew we could. Winning league is a feeling of completion. It’s what we wanted.”
The head Shark said the league title is an amazing cap to the water polo careers of Malibu’s seniors, who began playing varsity water polo as freshmen.
“They lost league championship opportunities for three years,” Goldberg said. “So to win it their senior year shows if you stay with the program you are going to get stronger, and if you stick to the plan you are going to be a champion.”
Malibu led Foothill Tech 6-3 at halftime, but by the end of the third period the Dragons had knotted the score. After a timeout with 2:34 left in the game, Malibu took the lead with a goal. Then, with 24 seconds on the clock, Foothill Tech earned a positive exclusion, but the Sharks defense kept the Dragons from scoring to preserve the 7-6 win.
Goldberg called the contest a “nail biter.”
“Alex Mora, Sophie Spivack and Gaia Hinds all tied for game MVP,” the coach said. “Gabi Cano, our goalie, earned 10 blocks!”
The title win was six days before the newly minted Tri-Valley League champs began play in the CIF playoffs on Tuesday. Goldberg said Malibu’s two victories over Foothill Tech —last week and in January — were hard fought, close wins that prepared the Sharks for the postseason.
“It was good to play tough competition right before CIF,” the former Malibu boys water polo standout said about Wednesday’s win over Foothill Tech. “This game was a tight game. There was a lot of emotions involved. We didn’t crack under pressure.”
Malibu advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division VII semifinals last season, one game before the championship match. Goldberg said Malibu wants to advance further than the 2015-16 team did.
“We got moved up a couple divisions higher, so we know the competition is going to be tough, but we feel we have a solid group of girls that is really focused on getting to that final show,” Goldberg said.
The coach said the Sharks’ ability to play team water polo is a big strength in the playoffs.
“Any day, any one of our girls can be game MVP,” Goldberg said. “They all have attributes that create the team we have. Whether that is getting the ball to set, counter-attack and driving in the pool. We are ready.”