Hemet wins title with defense


   STAFF WRITER ejohnson@pe.com 
   IRVINE — “It’s not always scoring about goals,” Hemet girls water polo coach Travis Henderson said after Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 7 title match.

   Hemet played swarming defense on the perimeter, and senior keeper Tabitha Del Carmen was stellar in the cage as the Bulldogs knocked off Huntington Beach Ocean View, 6-2, at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.

   That all-around defensive effort by the Bulldogs helped the program secure its first section championship.

   “I definitely feel like I’m dreaming right now,” senior 
driver Abigail Carpenter said. “We started out a little rough this season. We lost our first game. We just kept building ourselves up and never stopped believing.”

   Ocean View (23-9) struggled offensively throughout the entire match, especially on power-play opportunities. The Seahawks failed to score on their first seven chances and finished the match converting 1 of 8 opportunities. 
   “Our 6-on-5 defense has been something we’ve talked about and worked on all week, because it’s probably been the weakest part of our game this year,” Henderson said. “That work showed. We shut them down for the most part.”

   Del Carmen helped set the tone for the Bulldogs, turning away three shots in the opening period to keep Ocean View scoreless. Del Carmen finished with 10 blocks.

   “It’s important to be aware from the beginning and to stay alert at all times,” Del Carmen said. “We were all locked in out there today. We were totally in sync.”

   “Their goalie did an incredible job,” said Ocean View coach Melissa Fernandez, who was a standout player at Redlands High. 
“We had some good opportunities, but she kept us off the board.”

   Hemet (22-9) got on the board when Shelbi Skinner took an entry pass in the hole and rifled a shot past Ocean View goalkeeper Cami McNabb. It would be the lone goal for Hemet’s leading goal scorer, as Ocean View sent two to three defenders at Skinner on every possession.

   Skinner was able to draw a handful of ejections, however, giving the Bulldogs power play opportunities. Hemet converted 4 of 6 of those 6-on-5 advantages.

   “I figured that was going to be my role today,” Skinner said, a senior 2-meter player. “I knew if I could keep drawing them and get man-ups, we were going to win.”

   “She was dominant without scoring very many goals,” Henderson said.

   The attention given to Skinner left Ocean View’s 
defense vulnerable on the perimeter, and Carpenter and senior Madalynne Caratinni took complete advantage.

   Carpenter was able to drift toward the cage without facing much resistance, and she fired home three goals from long range. Caratinni found some space at times on the weak side, and she pocketed two second-half goals.

   “They read our set plays and swarmed at Shelbi, and that left me open on the perimeter,” said Carpenter, who had scored 17 goals prior to Saturday’s title match.

   Del Carmen dashed any hopes Ocean View had for a rally when she stopped a penalty shot late in the match.

   “That was a huge moment, and she’s been huge for us all year,” Henderson said. “She’s surprised me so much with how much she stepped up her game in the playoffs.”

   Hemet girls water polo coach Travis Henderson celebrates with the Bulldogs after defeating Ocean View in Irvine.

ERIC-PAUL JOHNSON/STAFF   Hemet goalkeeper Tabitha Del Carmen stops a penalty shot during the fourth period in her team’s CIF-Southern Section Division 7 title match against Ocean View in Irvine.

The Valley Chronicle Story

Hemet girls’ water polo wins CIF championship

Written by  JESSICA SELF
CHAMPS: The Hemet High girls’ water polo team celebrates after winning the Division 7 championship game on Saturday by beating Huntington Beach Ocean View by a score of 6-2. ------ MICHAEL WOLFORD/ Special to The Valley Chronicle

CHAMPS: The Hemet High girls’ water polo team celebrates after winning the Division 7 championship game on Saturday by beating Huntington Beach Ocean View by a score of 6-2. ------ MICHAEL WOLFORD/ Special to The Valley Chronicle

Hemet High School now has another CIF championship team. The girls' water polo crew beat out Huntington Beach Ocean View 6-2 at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center on Saturday to be named the Division 7 CIF champs.

The championship match was a defensive duel in which Hemet keeper Tabitha Del Carmen saved 10 goals.

Hemet head coach Travis Henderson said his team "shut down" Ocean View for the most part, much to the credit of Del Carmen and the commitment of his team.

Offensively, the Bulldogs lead scorer Shelbi Skinner once again was the first on the board after throwing in a shot off an entry pass. But, it would be her only goal on the game as Ocean View began to double and triple team the senior threat.

Picking up the offensive production were Abigail Carpenter and Madalynne Caratinni who had three and two goals respectively, capitalizing on the power play opportunities Skinner created for her team by drawing ejections of Ocean View's defenders.

While Skinner had to find other ways to contribute in the finals victory, in the semifinals against Citrus Valley High School, in which the Bulldogs won 12-3, Skinner racked up five goals.

Also scoring in the semifinal matchup was Emily Crane with four goals.

"Emily really stepped up for us during our playoff run," Henderson said. "All of the girls did."

Audrey Wayment, McKenna Glasser, and Jessica Cripe each scored one goal in the semifinal match as well.

Del Carmen had 10 saves in the semifinals to match her number of saves in the final.

"Tabitha (Del Carmen) was huge for us," Skinner said. "I am so proud of everyone on our team for meeting the challenge and hanging in there."

Henderson said that while he was thrilled with his team, he had no expectations of making it this far at the beginning of the season.

"No boys or girls water polo team at Hemet has done this, so it feels great," Henderson said. "This team has been a work in progress from the beginning. We only have one player who played water polo all four years of high school. We were young experience wise, but they just continued to improve."

For Skinner, the championship marks her fourth while in high school as she was a member of all three CIF volleyball championship teams at the school.

"This is definitely different than volleyball," she said. "In volleyball it is always about the team and there are pauses in the match. In water polo, you never stop fighting. It is physical and go-go-go."

Skinner said her teammates learned how to fight.

"In the pool, you are always fighting against somebody and there is no moment of relaxation," she said. "I have been telling them from the beginning that there is no feeling like being a CIF champion and I am so happy they get to feel that for themselves."


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