CORONA DEL MAR — "Ro-bert! Ro-bert!"
Corona del Mar High students used the chant a couple of different times Saturday night in the Battle of the Bay boys' water polo match. Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn said he didn't mind it.
"They were antagonistic, which is good," Lynn said. "That's fine. That's what crowds should be like."
But the heel for the host Sea Kings turned out to be an emerging player for Newport Harbor.
Ryan Warde scored his game-high fourth goal on a power play with eight seconds remaining, helping the Sailors hold on and take the rivalry match, 9-7, on Saturday night at CdM.
Four goals is a career-high for Warde, who is known for being an emotional player. His big splash after that last goal earned him a yellow card, but he and the Sailors didn't mind. They were on their way to winning the Battle of the Bay for the second straight year.
"It felt really good," Warde said. "I mean, especially in front of the CdM fans."
Just one week earlier Lynn said he benched Warde, trying to teach him a lesson after he committed an overly aggressive foul in the Sailors' 11-10 nonleague loss to El Toro. A week later, Newport Harbor needed the junior.
Three of four of Warde's goals came on the power play, part of an efficient night for the Sailors on six-on-five. They converted seven of nine opportunities; Corona del Mar was three for eight.
Lynn said the Sailors (16-3), ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, were able to recognize the zone defense of No. 7-ranked CdM (13-7). But Newport Harbor, which had a seemingly comfortable 8-4 lead after senior Curtis Fink scored on a penalty shot with 3:40 left, nearly gave all of it back.
CdM kept working. After senior center Armen Mavusi drew an exclusion, senior Reid Chase scored a six-on-five goal. Then a steal by senior Jack Harryman (five steals) led to a good look by senior Danny Marshall. He buried it from six meters with 1:47 left, bringing the Sea Kings within 8-6.
After CdM senior Blake Motal scored from the right with 59 seconds left, the lead was down to a goal. Those CdM fans were ecstatic.
"We talked about taking care of our emotions this game, playing water polo and not turning it into fighting," Lynn said. "I'm proud of my guys to handle that. We had a good lead, 8-4, but mistakes at the end got it back close ... We're still working on that discipline."
Out of a timeout the crowd chanted another two-syllable chant, "De-fense!" CdM Coach Barry O'Dea joined along, pumping his fist in rhythm.
But, as the shot clock ran down, Newport Harbor senior center Andrew Silvers drew an exclusion with 32 seconds remaining, leading to Warde's final goal. After the game, O'Dea questioned the call.
"I didn't think it was an exclusion, and with 32 seconds left in the game I think that's a pretty harsh call to make," he said.
CdM got the ball back in the final seconds and drew its own exclusion, but a final shot at the buzzer was blocked by Newport Harbor senior goalie Wyatt Muller (nine saves).
"We're not playing bad," O'Dea said. "We've got to clean up our six-on-five. The guys have just got to put it away ... but we've got a good attitude going forward. We have to play all of the games from here on out the way we played in the fourth quarter [tonight against Newport]. We've just got to let it go, let it all hang out and let the chips fall where they may. We were pretty good when we got a little desperate there."
Fink had three goals (one on a penalty shot), two assists and drew five exclusions for Newport Harbor. Preston Lee and Mitch Mendoza also scored goals, and senior defender Dan Stevens had a pair of steals.
Chase led CdM with three goals, including one on a penalty shot, and also drew three exclusions. Colby Watson also scored for CdM, the Sea Kings' only first-half goal as Newport Harbor led, 3-1, at halftime.
The Sailors had enough left in the tank at the end to hang on.
"It was just a great moment to know that you're up by two goals, with the last possession left to go," Fink said. "It's a great feeling. From an older guy's point of view, it looked like a younger guy was sealing the deal. [Warde] put it in for the team."
CdM goalie Patrick McKenzie made five saves, and Marshall had two field blocks to go along with his goal.
The CdM drumline performed prior to the game, and CdM sophomore Rachel Kamran gave a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. The atmosphere may not be the same next weekend, but the rivals could meet again. They're in the same group in the Bellarmine Memorial Cup tournament in San Jose.
For Newport Harbor, Saturday's win was a good comeback after the loss to El Toro, which dropped the Sailors from No. 3 to No. 6 in Division 1.
"I honestly feel like it was good for us," Warde said. " It kind of woke us up a little bit."
Warde said good night to the Sea Kings and their fans.