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Costa Mesa boys’ water polo jumps on Sage Hill early

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Grant Gostin of Costa Mesa fights for the ball in front of the Sage Hill goal and scores in a nonleague match at home on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Costa Mesa High boys’ water polo coach Cody Serrano yelled out to senior goalkeeper Joey Palmblade on Tuesday afternoon.

Palmblade didn’t have to make any saves in the first quarter of the Mustangs’ nonleague match against Sage Hill, and he watched a shot go wide of the cage at the buzzer.

“Joey, are you awake?” Serrano asked. “Just making sure.”

Costa Mesa used steals by field players, not saves, to spark its counterattack. It proved an effective strategy for the Mustangs, who beat the Lightning 17-7 at home.

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Costa Mesa (2-1) led 8-0 after the first quarter and 12-0 late in the first half against the overmatched Lightning (3-3). Palmblade, who played until midway through the third quarter before being removed for backup Connor Beneville, had to make just four saves, the first one not coming until 4:30 left in the second quarter as Sage Hill was on a power play.

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Sage Hill goalkeeper Jake Lopez keeps his arms up as Costa Mesa’s Xander Lukket shoots in a nonleague match on the road Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Senior center Grant Gostin led the way with five goals for Costa Mesa, while junior Gavin Fisher added four goals and three assists. Junior Xander Lukket had three goals and a team-best three steals.

The Mustangs are a different-looking team after the graduation of left-hander Caedmon Fisher, Gavin’s older brother who was a two-time Orange Coast League MVP. They also graduated their second-leading scorer, Teak Zachary. Dustin Serrano, who coaches the team with his twin brother, Cody, said they have eased up on the swimming yardage for the Mustangs early in the season.

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“The boys are taking it a little better, where they’re not getting exhausted from swimming so much,” Dustin Serrano said. “We’re training them in getting up and down quick and countering with all six guys, instead of having a couple of guys go down and scoring. We’re all going to try to be a scoring threat.”

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Costa Mesa’s Anderson Todd scores against Sage Hill in a nonleague match at home on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Junior left-handed center Anderson Todd had two goals and freshman Wyatt Juelfs also scored twice for Costa Mesa. The Mustangs also got one goal from senior Gabe Gerber, who shares team captain duties with Palmblade.

Gerber said turning defense into easy offense is indeed a goal for the Mustangs.

“I think it was huge,” Gerber said. “We’re still building chemistry as a team, but we were able to use our energy and our speed to our advantage, set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Serrano said that the Mustangs would have to work together to fill the void left by Caedmon Fisher’s graduation, but having another Fisher on the roster does help.

“I don’t want to say Gavin is jumping into his brother’s shoes, because he’s his own person,” Serrano said. “He’s doing a great job of not overstepping his boundaries, letting the captains show senior leadership and do their job, but also backing them up. It makes life a lot easier for Cody and me. We’ve know Gavin since he was 8 years old, so Gavin understands what Cody and I want.

“We do miss Caedmon Fisher, but they’ve all got to become their own athlete.”

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Sage Hill’s Matthew Charles passes inside while under defensive pressure from Costa Mesa’s Gabe Gerber in a nonleague road match on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Freshman Boden Wagner led Sage Hill with four goals, and junior Matthew Charles scored three.

“We have like five freshmen and we technically only have one team,” said Lightning coach Pavle Filipovic, whose team returns to action with a home nonleague match against Montebello on Sept. 17. “We don’t have [a] JV [team]. You know, this is a rebuilding year. This is a year where we’re trying to learn from every game, play one game at a time and grow.”

Serrano said that Costa Mesa plays this weekend at the Hank Vellekamp tournament, beginning Friday at Servite High. With a win in their opening match, the Mustangs would play host to Servite, which is ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 3. Costa Mesa is also a Division 3 team, but is unranked.

The Sailors, the CIF Southern Section Division 1 runner-up last season, again are title contenders. Newport Harbor returns Ike Love, Makoto Kenney and Tommy Kennedy.

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