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Costa Mesa Remembers, Beats Marina for Title

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Costa Mesa, early losers in the Southern Section Division II water polo playoffs last season, stayed around to the end this year and took care of some unfinished business with a 12-11 victory over Marina in the title game Wednesday at Belmont Plaza.

Last season, Marina upset third-seeded Costa Mesa in the quarterfinals. This time, the game was for the championship, but the Mustangs hadn’t forgotten the loss.

“We had a bad taste in our mouths after last year,” Costa Mesa Coach Brian Kreutzkamp said. “They wanted to come here and win this thing and they did.”

Early in Wednesday’s game, Costa Mesa (23-4) was making it look easy. The Mustangs led, 7-1, after Roger Kirnos’ six-on-five goal with 4 minutes 42 seconds left in the second quarter. Robert Grayeli, who drew the ejection of Drew Balandis to set up the goal, said his team was fueled by the memory of Marina’s victory last season.

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“I think we rode on that in the first half,” said Grayeli, who scored four goals.

Marina (23-7), however, got back into the game, scoring the last five goals of the half to make it 7-5. The Vikings controlled the third quarter, tying the score twice. Jason Box’s goal after a pass from Lance Banuk made it 9-9 with 2:01 left.

But Costa Mesa, which didn’t lose to a Division II team this season, hung tough and never fell behind. “We had to expend so much energy to come back you had to wonder how much we had left,” Marina Coach John Wright said. “We just couldn’t get over that magical tie.”

Ryan Dandy’s goal with 5:59 left in the game gave the Mustangs a 10-9 lead. Marina’s Stever O’Rourke tied it up again on a short shot from the hole 17 seconds later.

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O’Rourke, Marina’s two-meter man, had a game-high six goals. Kreutzkamp was impressed. “Stever is just like a little monster,” Kreutzkamp said. “He’ll kill you. He just shoots and shoots.”

But Costa Mesa hit its target more often. With 3:22 left, Sean Hylton took a quick pass from Grayeli and surprised Marina goalkeeper Darin Smith with his shot from about eight meters.

A minute later, on a six-on-five situation, Hylton scored his fourth goal to make it 12-10.

Marina, playing in its first section title game, had six turnovers and only four shots in the fourth quarter and didn’t have another good chance to score until O’Rourke made a steal at mid-pool and surprised Mustang goalkeeper John Taylor with two seconds left.

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It was Costa Mesa’s first Division II title. The Mustangs won Division III titles in 1983, ’87 and ’93.

Taylor had seven saves for Costa Mesa. Smith had eight for Marina.


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