CdM boys’ water polo cruises past El Dorado in CIF opener

Corona del Mar's Aiden Anavim shoots under the arm of an El Dorado defender for a score.
Corona del Mar’s Aiden Anavim shoots under the arm of an El Dorado defender for a score during the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Corona del Mar faced no obstacles in its CIF Southern Section boys’ water polo playoff opener Wednesday evening, battering an overwhelmed foe in a clash that was over as soon as it began.

The Sea Kings, though, know the challenges will grow much stiffer as they continue their march toward a first championship in more than a decade.

Second-seeded CdM looked terrific in a 21-7 romp over visiting El Dorado in the Division 1 clash and will need more of that to progress to its first title game since 2017 and first CIF triumph since 2010.

The Sea Kings (21-8) raced out to an 8-1 first-quarter lead that grew as large as 16 by the fourth quarter.

Corona del Mar's Camren Simoncelli (9) pulls up, shoots, and scores against El Dorado on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We’ve been thinking about [a CIF title] for a long time, and we’re hoping to get one ... ,” said junior attacker Charles Warmington, one of three Sea Kings to put away five goals. “We’ve been preparing for this for years now. We’ve had the same team [for three seasons], and we said this is our year.”

It might be their year, but the Sea Kings know they can’t think too much on the subject. The competition gets a lot stiffer from this point, starting with Saturday’s quarterfinal at Long Beach City College against No. 8 Long Beach Wilson (15-14), a 12-10 winner over sixth-ranked Santa Margarita.

“It’s so easy to look ahead. It’s so easy to dream about that CIF finals game and winning it,” Corona del Mar head coach Kareem Captan said. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time, and with that, you’ve got to take it one quarter at a time. You’ve got to play seven minutes of good water polo four times through. What needs to happen is we need to play at our best level. That’s what we can control.

“The teams that come away with a championship are the ones that play their roles the best, that complement each other the best, that gel the best. It’s chemistry, for sure, and tonight we had a lot of it. I’m interested to see how my boys reach when things get a little tougher. We’ve talked a lot about adversity throughout the season and how we’re going to have to face some adversity, some tough times, and how we’re going to respond to it. I think it’s those characteristics of a team that are going to make the difference in winning and losing. Because from here on out, it’s going to be a battle.”

Corona del Mar's Jackson Harlan (8) pulls up quickly to shoot and score against El Dorado on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Corona del Mar has won all three meetings with Wilson this year — 16-10 at the start of September, 12-9 in mid-September and 12-11 a month ago — and that leads to “some confidence,” noted junior Carson Simonson, who scored five goals and assisted three more, with a caveat: “You can’t underestimate [Wilson]. It’ll be a close game, an intense game, a high-energy game.”

The Sea Kings came out with great intensity this time, taking a 2-0 lead in the first 41 seconds on finishes by Warmington and Simonson, and adding to it steadily. Camren Simoncelli also scored five goals, Jackson Harlan added three, and Luke Zimmerman, Dylan Jatwani and Aiden Anavim tallied off the bench.

Simonson was particularly sharp, at both ends of the pool, and Captan called him “the standout.”

“He was extremely aggressive, extremely confident,” said Captan, who made sure every player on the roster made it into the pool. “He brought something new to the table that he hadn’t brought before.”

Corona del Mar's Charles Warmington (12) prepares to shoot against El Dorado on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

El Dorado had won more than 20 games and reached the quarterfinals or semifinals the previous three seasons in lower divisions, but the Golden Hawks (17-10) couldn’t handle the initial onslaught, nor what followed, in their first Division 1 postseason test.

“We’re a little young and probably not ready for this division yet,” said El Dorado head coach Bryan Swarm, whose team got two goals from Evan Won. “I think we can build off of this. I think this was a great experience overall. Watching the speed and understanding where they have to be, that will help us in the offseason [in getting] where we need to go.”

Corona del Mar goalie Chase Campbell stops a penalty shot against El Dorado on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

All four seeded teams won — No. 1 Laguna Beach rolled to a 13-7 win at Redlands East Valley — and Corona del Mar would face No. 3 Orange Lutheran (17-10) or No. 7 Palos Verdes (17-13) in the semifinals if it beats the Bruins on Saturday.

“Every time that we play, we have to be at the level that we want to be at, at a championship level,” Captan said. “We’re really focused on playing our best water polo, and the main focus is on us. Of course, we’re getting ready for other teams and scouting other teams, but when we focus on us, we tend to play our best water polo.”

Corona del Mar's Jackson Harlan (8) goes on the attack around a defender against El Dorado on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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