It's looking like it may be one of those years, the ones where the Corona del Mar High and Newport Harbor girls' water polo teams meet a handful of times during the season.
Last year they met five times, including in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match. This year they've already met twice, and the third time appears likely this weekend at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
CdM (8-2) and Newport Harbor (9-3) are both in Group C. Should they both win their tournament openers, they'd meet in a tournament quarterfinal at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Dos Pueblos High.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed at the Tournament of Champions, which is typically the toughest of the three in-season tournaments that the teams play.
Corona del Mar, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, opens its tournament against Rosary at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Dos Pueblos. The Sea Kings are led by players like Stanford-bound senior Cassidy Papa and senior lefty Ally McCormick, who is going to BYU for swimming.
But this also will be the first tournament for CdM's senior transfers from Greece, Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis. The twins, who have signed with USC, are off to a hot start. Stephania, a lefty, scored five goals in each of CdM's first two Pacific Coast League victories.
Corona del Mar, the defending Santa Barbara TOC champion, is trying for its fourth TOC title. Last year the Sea Kings rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the tournament title match to defeat Newport Harbor, 10-8, behind tournament MVP Diana Murphy (now at Princeton).
Newport Harbor, by contrast, has never won the TOC title. The Sailors have finished in second place in the tournament a remarkable seven times since 2003.
Newport Harbor opens its tournament against Santiago of Corona, on Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Dos Pueblos High. Santiago, last year's CIF Division 2 champion, enters the match ranked No. 5 in Division 2.
The Sailors are led by their three seniors who are also bound for NCAA Division 1 water polo schools, driver Carly Christian (UC Santa Barbara), center Elissia Schilling (UCLA) and defender Avery Peterson (USC).
Holiday Cup champion Foothill, which took over for CdM as the top-ranked team in Division 1, is the top-seeded team in the tournament. Los Alamitos, which didn't play at the Holiday Cup, is the TOC No. 2 seed. The Griffins are ranked No. 5 in Division 1.
Overall, the Tournament of Champions lives up to its name. It features the top seven teams in Division 1 and the top eight teams in Division 2.
Tournament semifinal matches are scheduled for 11:10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Santa Barbara High. The championship match is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. Saturday, also at Santa Barbara.
Tournament of Champions
Pool A: Foothill (ranked No. 1, Division 1); Laguna Beach (No. 6, Div. 1); Mater Dei (No. 1, Div. 2); San Clemente (No. 9, Div. 2).
Pool B: Los Alamitos (No. 5, Div. 1); Santa Margarita (No. 3, Div. 2); Montebello (No. 4, Div. 2); Dos Pueblos (No. 7, Div. 1).
Pool C: Corona del Mar (No. 4, Div. 1); Newport Harbor (No. 3, Div. 1); Santiago/Corona (No. 5, Div. 2); Rosary.
Pool D: El Toro (No. 2, Div. 2); Santa Barbara (No. 2, Div. 1); Murrieta Valley (No. 7, Div. 2); Agoura (No. 6, Div. 2).
(at Santa Barbara High)
12:30 p.m.: Santa Barbara vs. Murrieta Valley
1:30 p.m.: El Toro vs. Agoura
2:30 p.m.: Laguna Beach vs. Mater Dei
3:30 p.m.: Foothill vs. San Clemente
(at Dos Pueblos High)
12:30 p.m.: Los Alamitos vs. Dos Pueblos
1:30 p.m.: Santa Margarita vs. Montebello
2:30 p.m.: Newport Harbor vs. Santiago of Corona
3:30 p.m.: Corona del Mar vs. Rosary
(Note: teams will play two games on Friday).