The Sequoia girls’ water polo team opened the season with a splash. First, the Ravens’ junior varsity squad went out and skunked Mills, 15-0. The varsity squad followed with an equally dominant performance, beating the Vikings 16-9 in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division opener Tuesday in Redwood City.
Not only was it the league opener for both sides, it was their first game, overall.
“We had two scrimmages — Woodside and Terra Nova,” said Hailey Amato, Sequoia’ first-year head coach. “This [performance against Mills] was a huge improvement. I felt like everything came together.”
Not only was Tuesday Amato’s first game of the season, it was her first-ever game as a head coach. A high school and college player who still plays for an adult team in Menlo Park, Amato’s job with Sequoia will be infinitely easier if the Ravens play the way they did Tuesday. They had four players score multiple goals, led by Chloe Johnson and Eleanor Campbell, who each scored four goals apiece. Freshman Fiorella Campbell and Anna Ledbetter added three goals each, while Caitlin Dulsky dished out a game-high five assists.
Mills was led by Michelina Ng Solano, who scored a match-high seven goals. Goalkeeper Veronica Turner had four assists for the Vikings, while Julisa Cruz added three assists.
“This is our first game,” said Mills head coach Erik Anderson. “I figured there would be some growing pains. I was worried if they would be in the right position.”
In addition to her four assists, Turner finished the match with 15 saves — including seven in the opening period as the teams each scored three goals apiece.
Mills kept the match close through the first 1 1/2 quarters, tying the game at 5-all on Ng Solano’s fifth goal of the game at the 4:07 mark of the second quarter.
But the Ravens adjusted and started man-marked Ng Solano, who would hang back to take any long outlet passes.
“[Ng Solano] was someone we really needed to watch,” Amato said. “She couldn’t be left alone.”
Sequoia made its move midway through the second period. With the match tied 5-5, the Ravens scored three unanswered goals. Ledbetter gave her team the lead for good with a goal with 3:50 left in the first half. Eleanor Campbell then won a sprint to a loose ball in front of the Mills net and fired it home for a two-goal advantage and Johnson gave Sequoia an 8-5 lead halftime when she converted on a goal on a power play.
The Ravens kept up the pressure in the third period, outscoring Mills 3-1 to take an 11-6 lead into the final quarter.
The fourth period turned into an offensive onslaught as the two teams combined to score eight goals, with the Ravens scoring five times on five shots.
“It was a couple-goal lead (at halftime), but we wanted to get a few more goals (in the second half),” Amato said.
Sequoia jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead less than a minute into the match as Johnson took a pass in the set from Emeline Robbins, turned and fired home the goal 31 seconds in. Fiorella Campbell made it 2-0 at the 52-second mark.
It was short-lived, however. Mills got on the board at the 1-minute mark as Ng Solano took a long pass and flipped it past the Ravens’ goaltender.
Halfway through the opening period, the Vikings tied it at 2-all as Ng Solano took a long pass down the left wing from Turner and buried it.
Goals 10 seconds apart late in the period meant the teams were tied at 3-all after the first quarter. Eleanor Campbell crashed the weakside post to put home a rebound off a Dulsky shot to put Sequoia up 3-2 with 1:20 left in the period, but it was tied 10 seconds later on Ng Solano’s third goal of the quarter.
The Vikings, however, could not keep up over the final three quarters.
“Overall, Sequoia is always a good swimming team,” Anderson said.
Amato hopes that her team can continue to grow and said to get such a team effort in the season opener was a good start.
“It was nice to see a number of girls score,” Amato said. “I have a lot of girls who aren’t afraid to shoot.”