The Corona del Mar High boys’ water polo team had suffered defeat in three straight matches, so a change of course was much needed for the Sea Kings.
Good thing birthdays have a way of providing happy moments.
Senior goalkeeper Harrison Smith celebrated a happy birthday, indeed, as host CdM upset Mater Dei 9-8 in a nonleague match on Saturday night.
Smith made 12 saves for CdM (15-5), which is ranked No. 13 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll.
Eight of those saves came before halftime, allowing the Sea Kings to take a 3-2 lead into the locker room.
“I think the energy,” Smith said of what led to his success. “Coming out strong in the beginning is always really important for us. I think something that we always take pride in is making the first four stops of each quarter.
“If we get those, then we can definitely have good momentum going the rest of the quarter. That really helps out the rest of our team.”
On a 6-on-5 sequence, Smith made an initial stop against the right post, and he recovered to stop Mater Dei’s Ryan McManigal on a rebound attempt.
Smith made a left-arm save of Matthew Van De Velde’s penalty shot in the opening period. In the third quarter, Smith came across the cage to stop Grant Loth on a backdoor scoring try.
“For three straight quarters, we played great defense,” Sea Kings coach Kareem Captan said. “Harrison Smith played the best water polo that he has ever played tonight.
“He played the best water polo that he has ever played, and it’s his birthday. I’m very, very happy for him.”
Aden Mina had two goals and two assists for the Sea Kings. Tyler Harvey added one goal, three assists and a steal. Tanner Pulice, Haig Mavusi and Eamon Hennessey each scored two goals. Dylan Hamm provided two field blocks on defense.
The Sea Kings capitalized on Mater Dei exclusions for three power-play goals, and a fourth goal came after CdM gained a second possession following a man-advantage situation.
“We really focused this week on taking our time on offense, working passes and moving the ball, and having a lot more guys touch the ball,” Captan added. “Moving defenses around and making smart decisions.
“Not necessarily the first opportunities, but the best opportunities, so a lot of those come later on in the clock, and our guys did a really good job with that.”
Mater Dei, ranked No. 8 in the Division 1 and 2 poll, dropped to 8-8 overall. The Monarchs received three goals and two assists from Luke Redoutey. The sophomore defender scored all three of his goals late in the fourth quarter.
Loth had two goals and two assists for the Monarchs. Clay Kaneko, Vince Merk and James Stanton each had one goal, and Colin Weaver recorded 11 saves in the cage.
CdM resumes Surf League play on Wednesday with a home match against Laguna Beach (11-7, 0-3 in league). The Sea Kings went 1-2 in the first half of Surf League play.
“It’s super good to get a win again,” Hennessey said. “We were kind of in a slump, and we had a few bad games, but I think those are over with.”
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