Pali Girls Water Polo Wins First City Title
“We finally got rid of the curse,” said Palisades High girls water polo coach Kirk Lazaruk, after the team’s 13-8 victory over Birmingham Thursday.
This was the girls’ first Division I City Section championship since the sport was reintroduced at Pali in 2011-2012.
During the break between quarters during the finals at Valley College, the announcer said: “Girls water polo started as a CIF sport in 2009. Since that time Cleveland has won two titles [2009 and 2011], Eagle Rock has won six [2012, 2013, 2014, 2105, 2017 and 2018], Birmingham has won two [2010 and 2016] and Palisades High School has never won.”
Palisades had been “the bridesmaid” in five finals, losing a year ago to Eagle Rock, 9-8.
This year was different. Senior Samantha Stahl scored two minutes into the game and freshman Adelaide Saab found the net a minute later, then added another goal a minute after that.
Birmingham scored, but freshman Julia Sansing came back with a goal to put the Dolphins ahead 4-1 at the end of the quarter.
Junior Leighanne Estabrook started the second quarter with a goal, and Birmingham added one. Sansing came back with her second goal, but Birmingham scored twice before the Dolphins’ Saab and sophomore Maxine Eschger added goals. At half the Dolphins were up 8-5.
Saab started off the third quarter with a goal. Birmingham scored, and then Pali had
numerous shots just miss the net, hitting the side or bouncing back, before Eschger scored with 28 seconds left in the third.
Although Birmingham scored twice in the final quarter, Brouwer, Sansing and Saab all added goals to bring the final score to 13-8.
Lazaruk, who came aboard as the girls water polo coach in 2016-2017, said this year was “so much different. We started training in August.”
“The girls have a passion for the sport,” Lazaruk said. “Everyone works together and there is no complaining. They have great comraderie: they hang out together when they’re not in the water.”
Maybe the big difference in the championship game was the depth on PaliHi’s team. “Birmingham couldn’t match the six we had in the water,” Lazaruk said. “Every one of our six girls can shoot.”
Even though he has a young team—of the 17 players, only five are seniors–Lazaruk praised the leadership and maturity of his players.
He noted that about seven of his players this year are also playing club in the off-season, which allows him to work more complicated patterns and plays, instead of having to start with the fundamentals.
Next? “We get to go to State,” he said. (Brackets will be available Sunday, February 17.)