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Johnson, Poulos guide No. 1 Vaqueros into state final, 11-7

Kemi Djikstra, a freshman center from the Netherlands, plays defense during Friday's state semifinal.
Kemi Djikstra, a freshman center from the Netherlands, plays defense during Friday's state semifinal.

Halie Johnson scored four goals and goalie Nicole Poulos made four saves and four steals on Friday, sparking No. 1-ranked SBCC to an 11-7 semifinal win over San Joaquin Delta in the CCCAA Women's Water Polo Championships at Cuesta College.

Santa Barbara is 30-3 after winning its 11th straight game. The Vaqueros reached the state final for the second straight year and they'll be seeking their first state title in women's water polo. They'll take on Sierra (25-5), the top seed from the North, on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. in San Luis Obispo.

    Live Stream of Saturday's state final at 1:15 p.m.

Sierra edged defending state champion Riverside 6-5 in Friday's morning semifinal.    

The Vaqueros are 8-1 in Cuesta's pool this year. Delta fell to 26-11 and will play Riverside in the third-place game on Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

"I'm super happy for my team," said coach Chuckie Roth, after chalking up the 100th win of his four-year career (100-31). "It was a great team effort. This team understands how to support and encourage each other."

SBCC beat Sierra 12-7 about a month ago in the third-place game of the Long Beach Tournament. The Vaqueros were the state runner-up last year and they're 63-5 (.926) over the last two seasons.

Johnson, a sophomore from San Marcos High, scored a goal in each period and added two steals and three drawn ejections. Emma Fraser scored three goals and Alyssa Russell-Sadoff had three assists and four of her team's 17 steals.

The Vaqueros led 3-2 after one quarter, then broke it open with a 4-1 second quarter. Fraser tallied three of those goals and the last one came with 12 seconds left, giving SBCC a 7-3 halftime advantage.

Johnson and Sarah Parson scored in the third period, stretching the lead to 9-4. Poulos stopped a 5-meter penalty shot by Kate Allan with 18 seconds left in the third stanza.

"Nicole played a great defensive game," said Roth. "I'm so proud of her improvement. And Halie Johnson is a special kid. Tomorrow will be the last day I coach her after eight years of games and practices.

"I'm so proud of the integrity she stands for. She did an amazing job of leading the team today."