The 2009-2010 sports season was memorable because four Islander sports teams won CIF Division titles and the Islander Sailing Team finished as the best team in California and No. 6 in the United States. In the past two weeks we re-ran columns that extolled the virtues of the championship Islander Baseball Team and the Islander Girls Soccer Team. Now we’re onto the Islander Girls Water Polo Team, under the direction of Head Coach Dave Throop.

As a reminder in 2010, the CIF Sections were determined exclusively by enrollment size and there was no Open Division, thus Coronado was assigned to Division II. Two other notes, Throop was voted the CIF San Diego Section Coach of the Year for his efforts. And the player introductions prior to the Championship game against Bishop’s described below, is one of the most memorable sports moments in the 22 years I have written this column. As I was seated five feet away from the players during the introductions, and I knew Coronado established a huge psychological advantage and they were going to win the title. Enjoy the look back to the 2010 CIF Division II Girls Water Polo Championship game.

As a sports term, the appellation ‘Dynasty’ shouldn’t be thrown around in a willy-nilly fashion. Based on Saturday evening’s 10-7 victory by the Coronado High School’s Girls Water Polo Team over their rivals from The Bishop’s School in the CIF Division II Finals, it may be time to hang that tag on the current Islander team.

A group of nine Islander senior girls, with a couple of additions sprinkled in over the years, has been playing together under Head Coach Dave Throop since middle school. The Nine are: Colleen Moore, Ashley Young, Maddie Murphy, Kelly Ronimus, Hillary Estrada, Sidney Hoshko, Natalie Stringer, Megan Meloche, and Kaylee Ginnane. Four years ago, this group reached the CIF Finals. For the last three consecutive years they won the CIF Division II Championship. The Bishop’s Knights were the opponents for all four CIF Finals games.

The 2010 title game was played in blustery and wet conditions at the La Jolla High School Coggan Family Pool. Fans came adorned with long coats, fashionable footwear and in many cases, multiple blankets. The entire Coronado team decided to go through a five-minute period, which included the National Anthem and team introductions, attired in only their wet bathing suits and game caps. The Bishop’s squad was bundled up in long parkas. Intentionally or not, the Islanders were sending a message to the Knights even before the first whistle blew.

Then the unexpected happened. The first quarter was a scoreless draw. However, Coach Throop wasn’t worried. “In the first quarter, on our first four or five plays, we just missed our shots. From the first series we set the tone. We saw that come to fruition in the second quarter when we were clearly dominant.”

It took a little over two minutes in the second quarter for the scoring to get started, which came on a goal from Shelby Couture. Then the teams traded scores, with Young accounting for the Islanders second goal. Bishop’s answered again and then Coronado took over on scores from Estrada on a Murphy assist, an unassisted goal by Estrada and then a second score from Young. Coronado was up 5-2 before the Knights scored with 1:13 left in the half. But Couture scored 16 seconds later on an assist from Young to make the halftime score 6-3.

In most games between these two teams, you have the feeling that impending doom is around the corner, but such was not the case Saturday night. The third quarter became much more physical and neither team scored in the first five and a half minutes of play. The Knights scored to make the score 6-4, but Ginnane scored on a man-up opportunity to push the score to 7-4. A subsequent Bishop’s goal was answered by Estrada with 20 seconds left in the period. The Islanders took an 8-5 advantage into the final frame.

Bishop’s scored three minutes into the final quarter, but Murphy converted on another man-up on an assist from Ronimus. Less than a minute later, Murphy made one of the most athletic plays of the game, rising high out of the water with her left hand to reach across a Knights player, deflect and then control a Bishop’s pass into the post for an Islander possession. Seconds later Hoshko drew an exclusion and Young scored on another Ronimus assist to put the Islanders up 10-6. With 27 seconds left in the game, Bishop’s scored to make the final 10-7.

Coronado spent their last several possessions spread out over the entire pool, the water polo version of the basketball four-corners offense. The tactic was successful in its intent, running precious seconds off the clock and soon thereafter the Islander three-peat was complete. The obligatory ceremonial team swim with the coaching staff followed in short order.

A key to the game was man-advantage results for both squads. Coronado converted on three of their seven 6-on-5 chances and held Bishop’s to one of seven. “That is indicative of our team defense,” Throop noted.

The title capped a strong Islander run through the top half of the CIF Division II bracket. Coronado dominated Monte Vista in the first round. Then they defeated three consecutive Western League opponents for the third time each, an extraordinarily difficult task. University City fell in the Quarterfinals and Coronado dominated Cathedral Catholic in the semis 11-2, and it wasn’t that close. Ronimus was the Islanders scoring leader with three goals, followed by a pair each from Estrada, Murphy and Hoshko. Young and Couture had one goal each. Colleen Moore, Brooke Bernardy and Emma Renly shared time in goal.

Coronado defeated Bishop’s at home, on the road and at a neutral site. That pretty much says it all. Based on the fact that Coronado defeated Division I Champion Vista twice during the regular season, the Islanders are hereby declared to have won the Mythical San Diego County Championship. For years the power in both Boys and Girls Water Polo has come from Division II, which features schools with smaller enrollments.

“Our goal was to play our best game,” said Throop of his team. “The Girls just played really well, with their ball control and passing. I’m proud of the group. It’s, in some ways, the end of an era. These kids have been around so long. This is one of the more talented teams we have had and I am impressed with the kids that stuck with it. This program isn’t for everybody. We have a good group of juniors and underclassmen behind them, so it’s not the end. We’ll develop and be ok. This was a nice game for the seniors to finish with.” Coronado finished its title run with an overall record of 24-8 and a perfect 6-0 mark in the Western League.

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