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La Jolla’s Woods looking for strong send-off in pool

Senior hoping to lead team to playoffs

Each February for the last three years, La Jolla High School’s girls’ water polo team has entered the CIF San Diego Section playoffs with high hopes, and each year the Vikings’ quest for a Division II championship has stalled in the semifinals.

Kate Woods has been there every step of the way, and she’s hoping that this winter, things will be different.

Woods, a senior utility player, is the leader on a team that is 14-6 this season, seeded third in Division II and scheduled to open the playoffs Feb. 18 with a 5:30 p.m. home game against Valley Center.

She would like nothing more than to win that game and get through the Feb. 20 quarterfinals, then have a shot at taking down neighborhood rival and longtime nemesis Bishop’s — the division’s second-seeded team — in the Feb. 24 semifinals.

“It’s pretty much a consensus that this is the best team we’ve had in a while,” Woods said. “Most of us have been playing together for four, five, or even six years. We just really click and mesh well together.

“When we’re playing 100 percent, we have a good chance of beating (Bishop’s or top-seeded Coronado). ... The biggest thing for us would be to get to the finals. If we do as planned, we’d have a chance against Bishop’s in the semifinals — that’s really the game that we’re focusing on the most.”

Without Woods’ solid play, the Vikings wouldn’t be in the position they’re in. According to La Jolla coach Dante Laghetto, Woods has scored more than 50 goals this season and has been a team leader almost from the moment she jumped into the pool as a freshman.

“Her love for the game makes her easy to coach,” Laghetto said. “She has great knowledge of the game, attitude, commitment and she is a real team player and a great role model for the young kids in our program.”

Woods has been accepted to Brown University, and despite the fact that Ivy League schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, she plans to continue her water polo career there.

In the meantime, though, she’s squarely focused on the playoffs and a potential semifinals matchup with a team she’d love to finally beat in the postseason. She’ll be counted on to lead the Vikings.

“It’s been really nice to be on varsity for four years, because I’ve gotten to look up to the older girls that graduated before me as role models,” Woods said. “I’ve really just learned from them that the best leader is one that leads by example.”