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This particular drought is over.

Righetti's girls water polo team has been a post-season regular during sixth-year coach Roxanne Leasure's time at the helm. What the Warriors hadn't done during that time is make it to the second round of the playoffs.

That changed Wednesday. Dominique Burciaga, under tight defensive pressure, scored the winning goal at the 4:25 mark of the fourth quarter and the Warriors went on to defeat Cabrillo 9-7 in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 Playoffs.

The Warriors (19-7) will play North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake in the quarterfinals Saturday. The time and location is to be determined.

"The past few years, it's been Arroyo Grande No. 1 (in the PAC 8 League) and us No. 2," said Leasure. "We've been trying to get to that No. 1 spot."

"We'd always got to the wild card round and won, or started right out in the first round. This is big for our program. The girls have been working hard toward this."

Righetti nearly got to that No. 1 spot last Thursday night, but Arroyo Grande won its 137th consecutive league game, and 13th straight league title, with a 6-4 win at Arroyo Grande in the tournament championship game. 

Cabrillo finished 17-9. The Conquistadores saw their season end after being in the semifinals the last two years. 

The game was technically Cabrillo's home game, but the teams played at Righetti.

"Our home pool, the Lompoc Aquatic Center, is being drained and won't be ready until March," said Cabrillo athletic director Dan Troup.

"We have had to play at our on-site pool (at the Cabrillo campus). We could not host a playoff game there because it is a shallow pool, and playoff games must be in deep pools."

Burciaga said good preparation helped her on her game-winning shot.

"My coach (Righetti assistant coach Chris Yee) and I have been working on set plays like that the past couple of weeks," said Burciaga.

"It helped me to be in the right spot for the shot. I knew I had to get it off quick (with the pressure), and I knew it had to be a good one because they have a really good goalie (Rylan Scott)."

Burciaga scored four times for the Warriors, including three goals in the second half. Madison Villa scored three goals. Emma Savaso and Denise Dominguez both scored a goal.

Ellery Wilkie scored all three of her goals for Cabrillo in the first half. The Conquistadores came from 4-1 down to a 4-4 halftime tie and took brief leads of 6-5 and then 7-6 in the third quarter. Righetti scored both fourth-quarter goals.

Maddie Stangl scored twice, and both goals were the ones that gave the Conqs short-lived leads. Natalia Hancock scored in the first half for Cabrillo, and Mary Rhodes scored in the second.  

Burciaga said, "It means so much," to be going to the second round. "We have been working really hard for this."

Righetti goalkeeper Sophia Reyes made three saves in the fourth quarter and came out of the goal area to make a steal then.

Cabrillo scored five of its seven goals on power plays. The Warriors managed to mark tightly in the fourth quarter without being tagged with an ejection.

"I think it was just not being afraid to get grabbed," said Villa. "We guarded them tightly but backed off just enough to keep from (fouling and getting ejected)."

With 56.18 seconds left to play Dominguez, with an assist from Savaso, scored the last goal of the game. Savaso and Burciaga, on a double team, forced a turnover, and that was that.

"This was the third time we played them, and we knew it was going to be a tight battle," said Cabrillo coach Scott Larson.

"We played them twice before and lost both times, in overtime (4-3) in a tournament game and at our place (9-5). We played good defense (Wednesday), had some good opportunities."


Sports Reporter