Corona del Mar High School’s water polo team, after winning the South Coast tournament Saturday, can lay claim to being the best in Orange County, and perhaps in the Southern Section.
The tournament featured 18 ranked teams in its field of 32, including the Southern Section 4-A’s top 10. And after three days of competition, the Sea Kings were on top.
Saturday in the championship round at Newport Harbor High School, Corona del Mar opened with a 9-7 overtime victory over Foothill, then dominated Sea View League-rival Tustin, 9-3, in the final.
Last week, Corona del Mar was ranked second in the 4-A to Sunny Hills. Foothill was ranked No. 4 and Tustin No. 8. But with Sunny Hills’ loss to Tustin on Friday and Corona del Mar’s championship victory, the Sea Kings are expected to take over the top spot in this week’s poll.
“It’s early in the season, so you really can’t read too much into this tournament,” Corona del Mar Coach John Vargas said. “I mean, we still made several mistakes during the tournament.”
But few on defense.
In the title game, the Sea Kings (7-0) effectively prevented Tustin (5-2) from setting up on offense.
Tustin’s Jay Warren was the marked man. He had scored five goals in the Tillers’ 11-10 upset of Sunny Hills, but would get few opportunities against the Sea Kings.
“Every time Jay got the ball in close, they crashed two or three guys and forced him to pass the ball out,” Tustin Coach Tony Choquehuanca said. “John (Vargas) is a smart coach. He was not going to let Jay beat him today.”
Tustin attempted to lure the pressure away from Warren by setting up farther out on the wings, but Corona del Mar was not about to leave Warren in a one-on-one situation.
“They were trying to make us come out, but that was not what we wanted to do,” Vargas said. “We were not going to let them get the ball in close.”
The Sea Kings had no such problems on offense, as 7 of their 9 goals came from within 5 feet.
Chris Oeding scored four goals, and Hagen Granthem and Gunner Gustafason had two apiece.
Corona del Mar led at halftime, 3-0, on goals by Josh Speyer, Granthem and Oeding, and increased that lead to 4-0 with less than a minute gone in the third period on another goal by Oeding.