Newport Harbor boys’ water polo routs rival CdM in Surf League opener
It was the first proper Battle of the Bay water polo atmosphere in a while, a three-week season with limited spectator attendance last spring notwithstanding.
The Newport Harbor High boys’ water polo team made sure to put on a show for its home crowd.
Members of the Tar Pit student section jumped into the water to celebrate with the Sailors on Wednesday night after Newport earned a 13-3 victory over rival Corona del Mar in the teams’ Surf League opener.
Seniors Mason Hunt and Will Fosselman each scored three goals to lead Newport Harbor (10-1), which was coming off a strong second-place finish in the South Coast Tournament on Saturday. The Sailors upset top-ranked league rival Huntington Beach in the semifinals before losing to Mater Dei, 12-10, in the title match.
Newport Harbor, Huntington Beach and Mater Dei are all tied for first in the newest CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll — which means little to Sailors coach Ross Sinclair.
“At this point of the season, our focus is on us,” Sinclair said. “We’re trying to establish our identity, play our system and really be the best versions of ourselves. Obviously, we want to be competitive in every game, but I haven’t even thought about the rankings. Our focus is, how can we play at our best at the end of the season? I think if we’re playing at our best, we’re in a position to be very competitive.”
Left-handers Gage Verdegaal, a senior, and Ben Liechty, a junior, each scored twice for the Sailors in Wednesday’s win. Liechty added three assists.
Richie Rimlinger, Peter Castillo and Cole Borggreve each added one goal in the Sailors’ well-balanced attack. Finn Genc did not score but was a sparkplug early, with three assists and four steals.
Two of Genc’s steals in the first quarter led to easy counterattack goals, as the hosts jumped ahead early. Six different players scored the first six goals for the Sailors, who led 8-3 at halftime and shut out the Sea Kings (11-5) in the second half.
“It was a good game for us, a good start to league,” Hunt said. “It was a great atmosphere with all of the fans being back. It was really cool looking out and seeing family friends, classmates, alumni, teachers in the stands for the first time really since 2019 Battle of the Bay. But speaking to our team performance, we played well defensively, especially in the second half.”
Junior goalkeepers Cooper Mathisrud (first half) and Bean Altshuler (second half) combined for five saves for the Sailors, who allowed just one “natural” goal. Sophomore left-hander Charles Warmington scored both of CdM’s first two goals on the power play.
Sophomores were a common theme for the Sea Kings, who are ranked No. 16 in Division 1. CdM also got a goal from sophomore Camren Simoncelli. Coach Kareem Captan said he started five sophomores; set guard Andrew Bertoia was CdM’s only senior starter.
Sophomore goalkeeper Chase Campbell had six saves and a pair of steals for CdM, which suffered defensive breakdowns. Seven of Newport Harbor’s eight first-half goals came on the counterattack.
“With the makeup of my team right now, they’re doing a great job focusing on being a better player, better team, better teammates each day,” Captan said. “These guys are going to have a lot of time together over the next three years.
“I think the scoreboard and the loss is one thing, but I’m extremely proud of how hard our boys fought from start to finish. I know that on the other side of the aisle, Newport, they know that we came to fight too.”
Newport Harbor continues league play when it hosts Laguna Beach on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. CdM hosts Dana Hills in a nonleague match Friday before facing off against Huntington Beach next week.
The Sailors will look for another balanced effort against the Breakers, who played a competitive game against Huntington Beach on Wednesday, falling 9-6.
“We have a lot of depth,” Fosselman said. “That’s probably the best part about our team. I think we have really good chemistry for a relatively big team.”
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