Girls Water Polo: Walnut beats Los Altos 11-6 to win Division 6 title for first time in history

Above: Walnut players celebrate with coach Lani Ruh after winning the school’s first water polo title with an 11-6 victory over Los Altos on Saturday.

IRVINE – Los Altos High School and freshman sensation Stephanie Contreras might have a CIF-Southern Section record, but Walnut has something a bit more – a CIF-SS title.
Jacklyn Marriott scored three goals and Alex Escobar and Allie Zell had two each and the Mustangs won the school’s first girls water polo championship with an 11-6 victory over Miramonte League rival Los Altos in the Division 6 final Saturday morning at William Woollett Aquatic Center.
Walnut, also getting eight saves from goalie Allison Hu, finished 25-6. Los Atlos, which received two goals from Stephanie Tuning, finished 24-9. Contreras, who set the CIF-SS record for most goals in the season in Wednesday’s semifinal victory over Chadwick, was held to one goal on nine shots. She finished the season with 188 goals, which eclipsed the previous mark of 183, set by La Salle’s Kara-Leigh Huse in 2008.
“It’s really exciting,” Walnut coach Lani Ruh said. “This is the best any water polo team has done in Walnut history, boys or girls, so it’s really, really exciting.
“The girls worked really hard for this. I’m really proud of them.”

Above: Walnut’s Samantha Lepp celebrats after the Mustangs beat Los Altos, 11-6, to win the school’s first water polo title on Saturday.

Walnut, which won three of four games from Los Altos this year, started fast, taking a 3-0 lead after the first quarter. Escobar, the team’s leading scorer, broke through first, converting a turnover with a drive and shot for a 1-0 lead 29 seconds into the game.
Marriott then made it 2-0 on a rebound follow at 3:06 before taking an inside pass from Kylie Leeper for a 3-0 lead with 21 seconds left in the quarter.
“Everyone was really pumped up to play and ready to go,” Escobar said. “We put it all together.”
Samantha Lepp made it 4-0 early in the second quarter before Los Altos fought back.
The Conquerors, also playing in its first divisional final, were a bit slowed in the first quarter after Contreras was stopped on her first four attempts. They made up for it in the second. Tuning scored from just past the 5-meter mark to make it 4-1 at 5:29 before Contreras dropped in a lob shot to make it 4-2 with 4:03 left in the half.
Summer Millard kept the momentum going with an inside shot to make it 4-3 at 3:23. Stacie Itow, then followed a goal by Zell, with drive and shot at 1:56 to make it 5-4 by halftime.
“It wasn’t so much them taking (Contreras) out of the game,” Los Altos coach Chris Coleman said. “Our shooters just didn’t shoot the ball. We were timid (in the first quarter).
“I’m not saying we did not come to perform, but they did pick on our weakness, and that’s smart coaching. We did rally back and made it 5-4 going into halftime, but we just didn’t finish.”
Walnut did.
The Mustangs picked it up at the start of the third quarter, taking a 7-4 lead three minutes into the second half, going up 6-4 on an inside shot by Leeper before Zell beat Los Altos goalie Brittany Machado on the right side for a 7-4 advantage.
The Conquerors had a chance to cut it to 7-5, but Tuning missed high on a penalty shot with 37 seconds left. A 5-meter by Escobar made it 8-4 with 21 seconds remaining in the quarter.
“Our track record has been that we don’t have the best second quarter for some reason,” Ruh said. “Maybe, they start figuring some things about us.
“We forgot ourselves a little bit (during the second quarter), but we were able to pull it back together.”
Zell and Stephanie Tuncel scored in the fourth quarter to push the advantage to 10-5 and seal the deal for Walnut.
“The big difference in the second half is we just relaxed,” Escobar said. “We knew that we were going to win, we deserved to win, so it’s nice to win.
“We worked real hard for this, so it’s really cool to finally win.”
– Steve Ramirez

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  • Walnut Insider

    great win for Walnut. Sad to see that the first time Walnut polo gets some press is after the finals. The long write up on LA to get in the finals was followed by a two sentence summary of Walnut’s victory. Nice job Tribune.

    I was at the game and I don’t think this game ever got close. Walnut dominated pretty much the whole time. Some parents told me the only reason LA had that one victory was because of the size of their pool. Apparently it’s smaller which plays into their style of game. I guess that’s no different to a baseball field.

    At any rate, congratulations to the water polo team you guys did a great job! Walnut is proud of you.

  • Mr. G

    Way to go Walnut Mr. Garcia

  • Aaron

    How about that…Miramonte League owns. Congratulations to the lady Mustangs.

  • Steve Ramirez

    Walnut Insider:
    Actually, I thought our coverage throughout the playoffs was pretty good.
    We had a story from every round, starting with Los Altos in the first round, covered Walnut in the second round and did a roundup for the semifinals, leading with Los Altos because their freshman was on the verge of setting a CIF-SS record.
    And we covered the championship game, with a photographer as well.

  • FredJ

    You don’t need to defend yourself Steve, they can always try the Mid-Valley news if they want more coverage 🙂 .. I thought our photos from Keith Birmingham were outstanding too…

  • It’s Girl’s Water Polo

    Come on you guys, this is girls water polo, not football. If the girl from LA wasn’t so good you wouldn’t have got what you did get.

  • LA H2O

    I was at the match and I thought the difference in the outcome was clearly the goalkeepers. Walnut’s keeper is outstanding…HUGE wingspan and could really boost herself out of the water! She repeatedly blocked quality shots from the LA girls. On the other side it seemed like every decent shot the Mustangs took went in. Really no presence in goal for LA.

    With the olympics in full swing I hear all this talk about how important goalkeepers are in Hockey. After watching this H2O Polo game I think the same can be said here as well.

    Congrats Walnut…you were clearly the better team.

  • Walnut Insider

    Steve & Fred, sorry if I came across as a little harsh about the coverage. I must have missed the write up on Walnut earlier in the playoffs. All I saw was the two sentence blurb about Walnut’s victory. It seemed like every time I opened the paper I was reading about that LA freshman.

    I will say I am surprised by the speed at which this story was put on line. And yes I agree some of those photos are great. I am sure the parents/players appreciate them.