Los Angeles Times

Harrington, Kapana share time, talent

Get Newport Harbor High senior Cleo Harrington and junior Carlee Kapana together out of the water, and they are prone to fits of giggling.

They play off each other well, which certainly is also true in the water for the Sailors' girls water polo team.

The consensus in the water polo community is that they're the top two goalies in the CIF Southern Section, which by extension could make them the top two prep girls' goalies in the country.

It's a nice problem for Newport Harbor Coach Bill Barnett to have, except that it's not a problem at all. Last summer, Barnett started instituting a very simple rotation.

The Harvard-bound Harrington, last year's Newport-Mesa Co-Player of the Year, plays in the first half. Kapana plays in the second half. Barnett said he had never done such a rotation as a coach, but the results spoke for themselves.

"It seemed to work out well," Barnett said. "So we just kept doing it."

That's unfortunate for opponents of the Sailors (13-3), who play host to top-ranked Laguna Beach in a key nonleague game on Friday. Newport has established itself as the No. 2-ranked team in Division 1 after finishing second at both the Holiday Cup and last weekend's Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

The second-place finish in Santa Barbara meant the team got two all-tournament team selections, and Barnett gave them to his two goalies. It was hard to argue after they combined for 54 saves through the team's four games. Now, they earn co-Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week honors.

Harrington also made two penalty-shot blocks in Santa Barbara, while Kapana made a couple of breathtaking saves from close range in the second half of the final against Laguna Beach. The blocks came against rising Laguna junior Makenzie Fischer.

"I actually thought we got a lot of great looks in the second half in transition, but Carlee Kapana was Carlee Kapana," Breakers Coach Ethan Damato said after the game. "She blocked a ton of shots ... Carlee was insane in the second half."

The insane thing might be that this rotation seems to be thriving, which seems to say a lot about the character of Harrington, the team captain. Barnett called her "a trooper." After all, she had been the starting goalie the past two years, helping Newport win the Division 1 title as a sophomore and return to the title match as a junior.

"I was lucky enough to get that chance to start and play full games for two years," Harrington said. "With 'Kap,' your junior year is obviously a really big year [for college recruiting], so I think it's only fair. I mean, she's amazing. It's only fair that she gets that opportunity to show what she's got, too ... I think naturally I was a little bummed at first, because I was used to playing the whole time. But you just make the best out of every situation. We're having a lot of fun out there."

This isn't the first time the two have split time. Harrington and Kapana also did so when they were in eighth and seventh grade, respectively, in 14-and-under water polo. Kapana has played on junior varsity the last two years for Harbor.

There's certainly no drop off when she comes in. She has great leg strength, which is why you might see her full torso out of the water in an action photo. And she has plenty of international experience with Team USA as well, after helping the U.S. win gold at the UANA Youth Pan American Championships last summer in Argentina. Kapana also participated in the Futures 50 Classic at Foothill High in October, coming up big in a shootout against older ODP players (and Olympians).

Her teammate in Argentina, Newport junior Rachel Whitelegge, helped get Kapana into the sport of water polo initially. Carlee used to come to the pool at Newport Harbor High and watch her friend. At age 7, she finally had enough of just watching.

"One day, I was just like, 'I want to do it,'" said Carlee Kapana, whose older brother, Chase, was a baseball pitcher at Newport Harbor and Cal Poly Pomona before undergoing Tommy John surgery. "I jumped in and did the test set, and I made it.

"Then I called my mom [Susan] and told her to pay for me to play," Carlee Kapana added, starting to laugh. "She was like, 'OK.'"

Carlee also is an artist. She said she really enjoys acrylic painting. She helped design the T-shirts that the Sailors wore at Junior Olympics last summer.

"I'll pretty much do anything," she said. "I really like doing collages, with magazines and stuff. Watercolor, charcoal."

The artistry in the water from Harrington and Kapana is fun to watch, as is the fact that their friendship seems to be thriving.

"I think that support system between us two is awesome," Harrington said. "During warmup, we're talking and laughing together, and we pump each other up. It's super-fun. I think we use our friendship to calm down the nerves before big games ... I really like that camaraderie. I think it brings the team together instead of dividing it."

Their teammates would agree. Sailors junior Kate Pipkin said she also would agree with the assertion that her team has the two best goalies in CIF.

"It makes our shooting better, in the sense that they're both really good goalies," Pipkin said. "We get split into groups when we shoot, and if you go shoot at Carlee or you go shoot at Cleo, you're up against a really good goalie either way. You've really got to work hard at making your shot."

As the last line of defense, Harrington and Kapana definitely get the job done. The arrangement of splitting time isn't common, but everything seems to be going in stride.

"They love each other, and they're such good friends," Pipkin said. "They're two goalies. They get to work out together, they get to warm up together, they pass with each other. Both are very, very supportive of each other.

"They're peanut butter and jelly, basically."

Cleo Harrington

Born: Feb. 29, 1996

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 5-foot-8

Sport: Water polo

Year: Senior

Coach: Bill Barnett

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite movie: "Forrest Gump"

Favorite athletic moment: Helping Newport Harbor win the 2011-12 CIF Southern Section Division 1 title as a sophomore.

Week in review: Harrington, splitting time with Carlee Kapana in goal, made 22 total saves (including two on penalty shots) as Newport Harbor finished second at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. Harrington was an all-tournament team selection.

Carlee Kapana

Born: May 22, 1997

Hometown: Mililani Mauka, Hawaii

Height: 5-foot-8

Sport: Water polo

Year: Junior

Coach: Bill Barnett

Favorite food: Olives

Favorite movie: "Nacho Libre"

Favorite athletic moment: Helping the U.S. Youth Women's National Team win gold at the UANA Youth Pan American Championships last summer in Argentina.

Week in review: Kapana, splitting time with Cleo Harrington in goal, made 32 total saves as Newport Harbor finished second at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. Kapana was an all-tournament team selection.

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