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Newport Harbor High’s Morgan Netherton commits to USC women’s water polo

Newport Harbor's Morgan Netherton scores a penalty goal against Laguna Beach.
Newport Harbor’s Morgan Netherton scores a penalty goal against Laguna Beach during the second half in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I semifinals on Feb. 29 at Segerstrom High in Santa Ana.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor High junior Morgan Netherton did not have to look far in her search for a college water polo program.

Her father, Drew, and mother, Laureen, both attended USC. Drew was an All-American water polo player in his senior year of 1994-95, helping the Trojans make the NCAA championship match in both his junior and senior seasons. Laureen was a fourth-generation Trojan in her family.

Morgan now will mark the fifth generation. The family will continue to “Fight on.”

Morgan Netherton said she has verbally committed to the USC women’s water polo program.

“The day I finally told [my mom] that I want to go to USC, I swear, I’ve never seen her jump that high,” Netherton said.

“But a lot of it for me was that I wanted a really good team bond, and I feel like I would get that the best at USC. Once I announced my commitment, so many girls reached out and showed love and support for me, which was just so awesome. I can’t wait to get up there and be with the team. I loved [associate head coach Casey Moon and head coach Marko Pintaric]. They were always making me feel like a Trojan.”

Newport Harbor High School hosted an on-campus ceremony to honor its athletes signing with or committing to a college for their sport on Friday afternoon.

The attacker has been a key contributor for Newport Harbor since she was a freshman, when she was one of four freshmen on varsity along with Taylor Smith, Lily Gess and Alex Love. As sophomores, the young nucleus helped coach Ross Sinclair’s Sailors (23-9) finish second in the Surf League and make the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals for the first time since 2015, losing there 9-7 to eventual champion Laguna Beach.

Netherton was a first-team All-Surf League selection and second-team Daily Pilot Dream Team pick.

At USC, she would join Sailors senior center Olivia Giolas, who also recently signed with the Trojans.

“I’m not going to lie, growing up around USC and going to football games, of course it had an influence and impact on me,” Netherton said. “I mean, how could it not? USC is a special place ... I got to grow up in the midst of it and experience really cool things, and now I’m excited to go do that as a student-athlete.”

Seniors from Corona del Mar, Edison, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Marina, Mater Dei, Newport Harbor, Pacifica Christian O.C. and Santa Margarita signed or committed to continue playing their sport with a college on fall signing day.

Drew Netherton said his daughter, the second of four children, made her own decision. But Drew, who played his high school water polo at Hacienda Heights Wilson and also played at Fresno State before that program was eliminated in 1992, said he is happy for Morgan’s success.

Drew, who played for the USA Water Polo men’s senior national team for four years after college, still suits it up. He has played Masters-level water polo for the Olympic Club since 2003.

He said he values doing the little things for the team to win, and he sees that same quality in Morgan.

“I’m super-proud, but she’s doing her own thing, for sure,” said Drew Netherton, who coached many of the current Sailors in age-group water polo for Newport Water Polo Foundation before they entered high school.

“As a youth coach, one of the things I told the girls was, ‘You don’t have to score a single goal to be the best player in the pool’ ... When my daughter makes that extra pass or shows good decision-making with the ball, that’s where I’m really proud. She wants the ball in her hand and she wants to make sure it gets put to the right side of the pool.”

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