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A freshman led the Santa Ynez girls water polo team to a historic championship.

That freshman, Shannon Connolly, is the CIF Southern Section Division 7 Water Polo Player of the Year.

The Pirates earned the first sectional girls water polo championship in school history, defeating Diamond Bar 8-6 in overtime Feb. 25 at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.

"I was a little bit surprised," when she heard she had won the Division 7 MVP award, Shannon Connolly, whose father, John, was the team's coach, said by phone recently.

"I'm just very honored to receive that."

Annie Ackert was named the Pirates' Player of the Game after the Division 7 title game. She was selected to the Division 7 First Team.

Shannon Connolly scored "105 goals, I believe," during the season, she said. However, she helped her team win the Division 7 championship game with her work on defense.

Ashley Yoo, one of Diamond Bar's season scoring leaders, scored three goals as the Brahmas forged a 6-3 lead in the first half.

Shannon Connolly marked her tightly the rest of the way, and the Pirates held the Brahmas scoreless the last 22:07.

"Throughout the game, they were definitely trying to draw an ejection (three ejections, and a water polo player is disqualified for the rest of the game)," said the Santa Ynez freshman.

"As the game went along, we changed our defense. We'd decided we'd better take deep drops, zone drops."

John Connolly said afterward that's not what the Pirates usually do. This time it worked.

When the season started, said Connolly, "We were just thinking, 'let's win league,'" said Shannon Connolly.

"As the season went along, some of the girls were thinking, 'Hey, we can win CIF,'" Shannon Connolly said.

The Pirates did not win the Los Padres League championship. They were runners-up to Cabrillo, as they had been the past several years before.

However, they did accomplish their bigger goal. The Pirates bagged the divisional title.

Under John Connolly's guidance, the Pirates finished their banner season 20-10.

"He treated me just like he treated any other player," said Shannon Connolly. "I felt a little bit more pressure, being the coach's daughter, but I expected that."

Shannon Connolly has played club water polo ball for several years.

"I've been playing with Club 805 in Santa Barbara the last four years," she said. 

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Sports Reporter