For the third consecutive time, the Arroyo Grande girls water polo team was involved in a tight CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship game.

For the third consecutive time, the Eagles came through.

All of Arroyo Grande’s three Division 4 championships came by two goals or less.

Top-ranked Arroyo Grande beat No. 2 Rio Mesa 9-7 for the 2009 title. Second-seeded Arroyo Grande edged No. 1 North Hollywood-Harvard Westlake 8-7 to win the 2008 championship.

This time, Melanie Johnson scored the winning goal with 42 seconds left and a defender practically in her face.

“I thought my best chance was to go high with it,” Johnson said. That’s what she did, and the shot went in.

“Anything that could help the team with a score,” Johnson said. “That’s what I was going to do.”

Eighteen seconds after Melanie Johnson scored the winning goal her sister, Kim Johnson, cemented the win with a steal.

Rio Mesa sophomore Courtney Walters was in position to shoot for a fourth - and tying - goal. Arroyo Grande’s all-everything goalkeeper, Brianna Lippert, looked anxious as she moved into position for an attempted save.

Lippert never had to try for the stop. Kim Johnson knocked the ball away from Walters before she got off the shot.

With the score 6-6, Walters uncorked a promising high shot. Lippert just got a hand on it and the shot rolled along the top post - then rolled off.

Lippert finished her high school career with a third consecutive divisional championship in 2010.

She set the school saves record. She also set the CIF Southern Section record for career saves.

“She didn’t have a back-up her sophomore or junior year,” said veteran Arroyo Grande coach Steven Allen. “She never had to share time.”

Lippert had a back-up in 2010, Kylie Anderson.

After completing the Division 4 three-peat, the Eagles did what they had done the previous two times - players and coaches jumped into the pool.

The Eagles had to labor especially hard for the 2010 crown. The Spartans led 3-1 early. Stephanie Stern led Arroyo Grande’s comeback and wound up with three goals.

“Winning a (divisional) championship never gets old, especially with the way we won the last one - in the last 30 seconds,” said Allen.

Lippert subsequently signed with Cal. The Southern Section moved the Eagles to Division 3 the following season.

They remained there, winning one Division 3 title during that span, before Arroyo Grande joined most of the other area sports programs in a move to the Central Section in 2018.

The Eagles lost in the 2018 Central Section Division 1 championship game.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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