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Newport Harbor girls’ water polo pulls away to beat inspired CdM for second time

Newport Harbor's Morgan Netherton takes a shot under pressure from Corona del Mar's Emily Cloherty.
Newport Harbor’s Morgan Netherton takes a shot under pressure from Corona del Mar’s Emily Cloherty during the second Battle of the Bay rivalry match on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Corona del Mar High girls’ water polo coach Melissa Seidemann brings the perspective of a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

The Sea Kings played visiting Newport Harbor close in the first half of Thursday night’s Battle of the Bay match.

And even though the Sailors pulled away for an 8-3 victory in the teams’ second Surf League meeting, Seidemann believes the whole experience was valuable for her team.

“From my perspective as a high-level competitive athlete, you want all of those high-level opportunities to be like that, even if you come out on the losing side,” Seidemann said. “That’s what’s preparing these girls to play college ball, to win a CIF championship, to play competitively … I just asked the girls to have some courage tonight, and I thought they showed a lot of heart. I was incredibly proud.”

The league could easily make a case as the toughest in the country, with four teams — No. 1 Newport Harbor, No. 3 Laguna Beach, No. 4 Los Alamitos and No. 8 CdM — in the top eight of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 rankings.

Corona del Mar's Emily Cloherty, left, and Newport Harbor's Bia Mantellato battle for a ball during Thursday's match.
Corona del Mar’s Emily Cloherty, left, and Newport Harbor’s Bia Mantellato battle for a ball during the second Battle of the Bay rivalry match on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor (11-1, 3-0 in league) remains the team to beat. Senior Morgan Netherton scored five goals in Thursday’s match, two of those coming on penalty shots. Senior foreign exchange student Bia Mantellato, senior Taylor Smith and junior Avery Montiel (three assists) added one goal each.

Mantellato and sophomore center Ryan Chalupnik each drew a penalty shot for the Sailors, who converted four of eight power-play chances while holding CdM to one for five in those opportunities. Junior goalkeeper Anna Reed made four saves for the Sailors, who found a more inspired CdM team than in the teams’ first meeting, a 15-6 Newport win on Dec. 23.

Newport Harbor led just 3-2 at halftime, after CdM senior Claire Eusey scored with 11 seconds left in the first half. But the visitors would pull away with three straight goals in the third quarter.

Mantellato finished inside, then Netherton scored bar-down on a power play. After Netherton scored a penalty shot then added another goal from center, Newport Harbor suddenly had a 7-2 lead with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter.

Newport Harbor boys' water polo team cheers on the girls' team during Thursday's match.
Newport Harbor boys’ water polo team cheers on the girls’ team during the second Battle of the Bay rivalry match against Corona del Mar on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Netherton, who scored five goals against CdM for the second straight time, said the Sailors were missing five players due to sickness. They had only nine players at Wednesday’s practice.

“That makes it really difficult to train, when you can’t even practice against a full team,” she said. “I think we’ve been working through that. We wanted to play for the people who couldn’t make it tonight.”

Mantellato, from Brazil, plays a utility role for the Sailors which includes a lot of center. The high-level player, who competed for the Brazil women’s senior national team at the 2019 Pan-American Games in Peru, has helped Newport Harbor at two meters after the graduation of Olivia Giolas.

“It’s been a completely different and amazing experience being here,” Mantellato said. “Just having a different way of playing water polo has been very good for me. I feel like I’ve been growing a lot in water polo, and also as a person.”

Corona del Mar's Lily Britt winds up for a shot during the second Battle of the Bay rivalry match on Thursday.
Corona del Mar’s Lily Britt winds up for a shot during the second Battle of the Bay rivalry match against Newport Harbor on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Though it is on the cusp of the inaugural CIF Southern Section Open Division, Seidemann knows that Corona del Mar (7-7, 0-2) likely needs to maintain its .500 overall record to earn a playoff spot.

Jillian Schlom and Aubrie Anderson also scored for the Sea Kings in Thursday’s match, with Schlom, Didi Evans and Aliyah Cohen notching one assist each.

Junior goalkeeper Sarah Decker had five saves and three steals for CdM.

“I love this league because it gives the girls the best competitive opportunities to learn how to play water polo,” Seidemann said. “I don’t like this league because six losses on the season, that puts us in a tough spot to recover and be in a position of advantage in CIF … You have to craft your season, which I’m learning in my first full year in this position.”

Newport Harbor returns to action with the second league match against Laguna Beach on Tuesday at 5:10 p.m., while CdM plays against Los Alamitos at 7:30 p.m. Both matches are at Corona del Mar High.

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