Dan Stevens
Staff Writer

It is often said that those who are best prepared will succeed. Those that persevere and show their true grit to the finish are the stuff of legend. And, as of today, the 24-7 (5-0 Sunset League) girls’ water polo team is the only team on the Newport Harbor campus this year to make a CIF Finals appearance. Again.

Though the team suffered a loss to CDM in CIF finals, the team showed their triumphant spirit and dedication from the top down. Their success can be attributed to their preparation and extraordinarily hard work; these traits are manifest in their magnificent season finish. For them, preparation begins before many mortals even recognize that time exists. By the time many on campus are awake, these girls have already had a full day. Done even once is difficult; doing it five times a week for twelve weeks straight is a true test of determination. Though it sounds cliché, few realize how difficult it is to persevere through one season alone, let alone a full year of it (often four times throughout a high school career.) It is time spent in the water competing, grinding, triumphing and sometimes anguishing; and any remaining time must be adequately dispersed between school, family, friends and sleep. These ladies were one game away from back to back CIF championships, but it’s not about the result. It’s about the perseverance and trying times that define one’s true character. It is perhaps this collaboration of characters that led the team through CIF, yet the most interesting part of their journey is arguably their several encounters with the Santa Barbara Dons.

The Sailors and the Dons competed four times throughout the year; the Dons triumphed in the first three. Yet the underlying theme of perseverance never left the Sailors’ minds. Having experienced the full glory of CIF Finals last year, the girls continued fighting. Junior standout Christina O’Beck explained “We knew going into the game that our strategy needed to change so we watched film a lot, studied scouting reports and did different drills in practice that we could incorporate them into our game. We knew how they would play so we finally learned to adjust.”

“Coach B [Barnett] knows what he’s doing and it shows because all the conditioning paid off” she added graciously as an ode to their Hall of Fame coach.

It is also evident that the outgoing group of seniors has had an enormous impact on next year’s team. Of them, O’Beck stated that she is “…best friends with a lot of the seniors so being on the same team with them my first season playing varsity was really special to me. Avery [Peterson] Carly [Christian] and Elissia [Schilling] are all obviously very experienced and they know what they are doing so having them guide me helped a lot.” It is this guidance that will lead to the eventual success of future polo teams to follow. As a senior leader of any team, it is important to not just use gained experience for current benefit, but also to guide the younger players for success in the long term. Hope and excitement remain high for the future of the girl’s polo team. O’Beck listed “We have three returning starters Cleo [Harrington], Rachel [Whitelegge] and myself, and sophomore standouts Chanel Schilling and Ellie Reid. We have two amazing goalies and a legendary coach. Not much more you can ask for.”

It isn’t just the rising talent in the program; it is the continued positive attitude toward hard work and dedication to the sport. Talent will only take one so far, but it is the latter traits that will carry one as far as they want. Overall, this team possesses both the talent and the drive for success and, though it will be difficult to beat this year’s performance, next year and the years following look promising. It indeed will be interesting to watch the continued growth and flourish of this program at Newport Harbor.

The NHHS surf team stands out as one of the best in the country, with more than a few decorated surfers catching waves in the name of the Sailors. After their recent trip to Nicaragua, the team now looks forward to the High School Surfing National Championships in June.

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