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Newport Harbor boys’ water polo survives challenge from Orange Lutheran

As the top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2, the Newport Harbor High boys’ water polo team is going to take everyone’s best shot.

On Wednesday, the Sailors were tied at halftime with No. 8-ranked Laguna Beach in a Surf League match. Three days later, Newport Harbor played No. 20-ranked Orange Lutheran in a nonleague match and it was again uncomfortably close.

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The Sailors never trailed the upset-minded Lancers, but also never led by more than three goals. That was the final margin of victory, as Newport Harbor posted a 12-9 win in its final home match of the regular season.

Junior center Ike Love scored four goals for the Sailors (21-1), who won their 13th straight match. Senior Jack White added three goals. But coach Ross Sinclair was not happy with his team’s defensive effort.

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“Our energy was not good,” Sinclair said. “We didn’t really play with that much of an edge … Overall I thought defensively we were not good today. We were pretty nonchalant and too casual, and that’s got to change.

“I think it comes down to the excitement to play, and the energy you have to bring to play defense. That’s what was missing in this game.”

Give credit to Orange Lutheran (7-11), which got ready for a key Trinity League match at Servite on Wednesday by playing Newport Harbor. Junior Miles Wilson matched a season-high with four goals for coach Steve Carrera’s Lancers, while juniors Cameron Burns and Riley Catino scored two each.

The Division 1 champion just two years ago, the Lancers have had to deal with the graduation of Hannes Daube (now at USC) and Ash Molthen (UCLA).

“At the beginning we were still trying to find our rhythm,” Wilson said. “I think we were pretty happy with how we played today. We wanted to just come out and play our hearts out. It was most important for us to all play together as a team … We were able to keep our composure, not too high, not too low.”

The Sailors led 9-6 entering the fourth quarter. Orange Lutheran cut its deficit to two goals on three different occasions in the quarter, but each time Newport Harbor had an answer. First sophomore Eli Liechty scored off a foul outside five meters, then senior Makana Sanita scored a six-on-five goal after Liechty drew an exclusion.

White scored the final goal of the match, on the power play with 1:27 remaining. Junior goalkeeper Blake Jackson made 10 saves. Liechty and Sanita each scored twice, and senior Jonny Rimlinger added a goal.

Newport Harbor returns to action Wednesday against Huntington Beach, in a Surf League match at 5:10 p.m. at Corona del Mar High.

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