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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

Lady Lancers return to CIF title match Saturday, Feb. 17, after 12-11 OT win over No. 1-seeded Agoura

Image used with permission from Katelyn Fu
Utility player senior Eden Buell (left) maintains a defensive position, while utility player sophomore Lauren Jacobsen finds an opening to split to the ball and double team one of Agoura’s top shooters in the second quarter during a Wednesday, Feb. 15, Division 2 CIF-SS semi-finals matches at Mt. San Antonio College.

They’re back.

After bumping up a level from Division 3 last season to Division 2 this school year, the girls water polo players (25-6) will return to the championship round Saturday, Feb. 17, and will face Alta Loma of Rancho Cucamonga in San Bernardino County (14-9) at 5 p.m. at Mt. San Antonio College. 

“I like to see our team get as much out of their season as they possibly can,” said girls water polo head coach Keith Nighswonger, who retired as a teacher here last school year and is also going back to the title game for the second time in his 41 years of coaching. “And you know, beating the No. 1 team in the division has been a kind of a relief for us that helped us reach a new peak.”

Nighswonger was referring to the Wednesday, Feb. 15, semifinal overtime victory against the Agoura Chargers of Agoura Hills in Los Angeles County. To even get a chance to take on the top seed in the bracket, the No. fourth-seeded Lady Lancers had to win two matches on the road.


Because the reporter was not present for the match, the following information was provided by the players and coach Nighswonger.

“Our main game plan for this game was to play strong defense because that is what wins games, and we just wanted to shut down their key players because that was the key to winning the game,” utility player senior captain Hannah Reekstein said. 

The first quarter started with the Chargers scoring the first point to leading with a 2-1 score, but as the girls water polo team maintained their strong form in defense and exploited openings in defense, they managed to climb up to a 5-3 lead at the end of the halftime.

“What made us catch up to [them] was playing aggressively by turning our defense into our offense,” Reekstein said. “Getting early offense during transitions, taking our time to see the pool and using up our whole shot clock helped us gain an advantage.” 

That advantage kept the Lady Lancers in the lead at 10-6 heading into the last quarter. 

But the team faced some adversity at the beginning of the fourth quarter as its defense broke down, allowing the Chargers to score four goals in a row. 

“We’ve had some miscommunications between our teammates that ultimately led us to a point where things didn’t go as planned,” utility player sophomore Lauren Jacobsen said. “So, unfortunately, that meant going into overtime for us.” 

Leading into the first three minutes of the overtime with a tied score of 10-10, the Chargers scored a goal. In the second half, the Lady Lancers also scored another goal, tying the game to 11-11.

Since overtime ended in a tie, that meant the match would continue until the first team scored.

“Going into sudden death with all the pressure, we were always able to keep our composure because of our coach, who kept telling us to play our game like we know how to play it and to keep shutting down the key players from being able to get a shot off,” Reekstein said. 

During the last moments, utility player senior Juliana Garcia, who gave the Lady Lancers a point when she scored in the fourth quarter, came through for the Lady Lancers.


After breaking free from her opponent who had held her underwater, Garcia popped up and threw a long shot from 13 feet to send the Lady Lancers into Saturday’s CIF title match.

“When I made the goal I just couldn’t believe it,” Garcia said. “It was a surreal feeling that enabled us to make it to finals for the second year in a row, and I feel like this goal just allowed us to take back what we lost last year.”

Nighswonger said he credits the win to the hard work that the girls put in even up until the last minute of the game. In addition, he was unable to explain that winning shot.

“The last goal that [Garcia] made was truly miraculous, and I still don’t get how she managed to get that shot,” the head coach said. “It was pretty amazing, but you know, it was very satisfying to see our team step up and play as well as they did and get the win.”


Last school year, the Lady Lancers reached the CIF Division 3 final but lost in Irvine to JSerra in Irvine. Nighswonger still saw the season as a successful one, calling his team the public school champions of CIF because JSerra is a private Catholic school.

This season after the girls water polo team kept its unbeaten Freeway League win streak alive, it entered CIF-SS playoffs ranked second.

The difference this time around is the Lady Lancers’ final match opponent will be a public school from San Bernardino County, and many on the team say they’re up to the challenge.

“There’s something truly special about our team and every player,” Jacobsen said. “I love the chemistry of this team and I can’t wait to see how we’re going to end up this year.”

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Nathan Lee, Assistant Entertainment Editor
After serving his first year part of The Accolade as a staff reporter, junior Nathan Lee is now spending his second year as an assistant arts & entertainment editor. Lee plans to use the experience gained during his first year to contribute to a wide variety of eye-catching articles. Outside of The Accolade, Lee plays for the boys tennis team and enjoys playing various sports.
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