WATER POLO / SOUTHERN SECTION CHAMPIONSHIPS : Villa Park Will Try to Slow Down Foothill
The last time Foothill and Villa Park met in water polo, it was no contest. Foothill won handily, 11-4, for its fourth consecutive Century League championship.
At 8:15 tonight at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach, they will play for the Southern Section Division I title, and Villa Park Coach Jeff Ehrlich has been trying to devise ways to slow down the top-ranked Knights (26-1).
Ehrlich says the third-seeded Spartans (26-4) must avoid the turnovers that plagued them in the Nov. 1 game. “If we can do that,” he said, “maybe we can give the people a better show.”
That won’t be easy. Foothill, which has won 11 in a row since losing to Long Beach Wilson in October, has few, if any, weak spots. Senior Brian Brown, who has 90 goals, is one of the better all-around players in the section. Sophomore Robby Arroyo (80 goals) is a strong two-meter man. Junior Jeff Pflueger (63 goals) and senior Kevin Brantley (45 goals) also provide firepower. The Knights have two strong goalkeepers in senior Ryan Brown and sophomore Nick Ellis.
Villa Park also has a well-balanced team. Senior Peter Cornue (78 goals, 44 assists), sophomore Kyle Baumgarner (76 goals, 45 assists), senior Brian Pharris (70, 40) and junior Joey Pacelli (54, 39) provide the bulk of the scoring punch and sophomore goalkeeper Jon Pharris has a school-record 226 saves and a 4.5 goals-against average this season.
In the Division II final, top-seeded Costa Mesa (23-5) plays third-seeded Marina (23-6) at 5 p.m.
Marina upset Costa Mesa in the quarterfinals last season, but the Mustangs have controlled the division this year. Three weeks ago, they beat the Vikings, 10-8, in a nonleague game at Belmont Plaza.
The senior-dominated teams play with similar styles, depending on strong defense and a quick counterattack. Costa Mesa is led by Robert Grayeli, a creative two-meter man, and Sean Hylton, a strong defender.
Stever O’Rourke (104 goals, 61 assists) and Lance Banuk (61 goals) lead Marina.