The last two weekends have shown that fierce battles between the top prep girls' water polo teams in CIF could be commonplace this season.
Laguna Beach, the top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 and defending Division 1 champion, edged No. 2 Mater Dei 12-11 in overtime in the Holiday Cup title match on Dec. 30. Then, on Saturday, Mater Dei lost at No. 3 Goleta Dos Pueblos 6-4 in a nonleague match.
Laguna Beach, which owns a 7-5 nonleague win over Dos Pueblos earlier this season, has won 42 straight games dating to the start of last season. But the Breakers will again be challenged next weekend, as they travel north to compete in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
Nineteen of the top 20 teams in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll are at the tournament.
With that collection of talent, the Santa Barbara TOC has a well-earned reputation as the toughest in-season tournament. Before it starts, the Breakers (11-0) open Orange Coast League play Wednesday at home against Estancia at 3:15 p.m. Laguna Beach then will play at Santa Barbara San Marcos in a nonleague game Thursday night at 7.
Defending champion Laguna Beach, Mater Dei, Dos Pueblos and Corona del Mar make up the top four seeds for the Tournament of Champions, which will have first-round and quarterfinal games Friday. The semifinals are scheduled for 11:10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Dos Pueblos, with the final to follow at 4:35.
Newport Harbor and Huntington Beach have the opportunity to play their way into the 16-team main draw. The Sailors play Murrieta Valley in their play-in game at 5 p.m. Thursday at Dos Pueblos. If they win, they would face Foothill in the first round on Friday.
Huntington Beach plays San Clemente in its play-in game Thursday at 6 p.m. at Dos Pueblos. Should the Oilers win, they would play Laguna Beach in the first round on Friday.
The Breakers are going for their fourth Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions title in five years. But as the recent scores suggest, it likely won't be easy.
Middleton surpasses 200 wins for CdM girls' soccer
Corona del Mar High girls' soccer coach Bryan Middleton passed the 200-win milestone with the program earlier this season.
Middleton got his 200th win in the Sea Kings' 4-0 victory over Yorba Linda on Dec. 5.
After Friday's 1-0 nonleague win over Laguna Beach, Middleton's record with the program is 204-103-55. He is in his 16th season as head coach.
CdM is 6-2-3 this season and opens its Pacific Coast League title defense Tuesday at University High.
"I haven't really said anything," said Middleton, who mentioned passing 200 wins following the win over Laguna Beach. "I've been waiting for a good game. I was kind of hoping to [get my 200th win] in the Battle of the Bay ... but it's a good feeling."