Girls’ Water Polo: Greeks impress in CdM debut
CORONA DEL MAR — Stephania Haralabidis was excluded twice Friday morning for the Corona del Mar High girls’ water polo team.
Each time, the senior sped back into the playing area after the 20 seconds was up. Each time, she scored in transition.
“When they put me back in I said, ‘OK, now I’m just going to swim down and get a goal for myself,’” Haralabidis said. “I was angry.”
Haralabidis and her twin sister, Ioanna, figure to make opponents of the Sea Kings pretty angry themselves over the next several weeks.
The much-publicized transfers from Greece made their season debut Friday in the Sea Kings’ Pacific Coast League opener, after missing the first month of the season per CIF Southern Section rules. They did not disappoint.
The Haralabidis sisters combined for six goals — five from Stephania — and CdM topped Irvine, 13-3, at home.
Of CdM’s seven starters, four are now two pairs of twins. The Sea Kings already had senior co-captain Erica Weed in goal and her twin sister, Genevieve, at defender. For the Haralabidis sisters, who have signed with USC, Friday marked the end of a frustrating month of not being able to play in high school. They had played club water polo with CdM Aquatics since mid-June, Coach Sam Bailey said.
“When [my teammates] would struggle, I really wanted to be there to help them,” Ioanna Haralabidis said. “We do so many practices with them, then when we were at games we can’t be participating with them. We weren’t even allowed to sit on the bench with our team, so we were out on the corner [of the pool]. We wanted to be there and help them and support them.”
They did so Friday. Stephania led all players with her five goals, four of which came on the counterattack. She also had three steals for CdM (6-2).
The talent is obvious when you watch the Greeks in the water. They were key components to the Greek youth national team that won gold at the FINA Youth World Championships in Australia in early December. Stephania, a left-hander, tied for the Greece team lead with 16 goals in the tournament. Ioanna, a right-hander, had 11 goals.
“They’re fast, they’re agile, they’re obviously very athletic,” Bailey said. “They both play with a lot of passion. They’re accustomed to playing an international style of water polo that’s a little bit different than the Pacific Coast League ... it was nice to have our team together [Friday].”
The presence of the Haralabidis sisters makes CdM a very deep team. Bailey went with a starting lineup Friday of both sets of twin sisters, plus senior co-captain Cassidy Papa, junior center Marina Coskinas and senior Morgan Stewart.
That meant that CdM’s top two scorers coming into the game, senior lefty Ally McCormick and freshman Maddie Musselman, both came off the bench.
“I think we can sub more regularly and get fresh people off the bench,” said the Stanford-bound Papa, who had four goals. “And then [the Greeks are] really fast, so we can really push the counterattack a lot ... It just adds more dynamics to our offense and defense. I think it’s probably one of our deepest teams, for sure, just all-around. And I think because we had to play without them, we all can play together, no matter who’s in.”
Irvine (4-4) tied the score at 1-1 midway through the first quarter when senior Tiffany Nguyen scored on the power play. But Corona del Mar scored the last nine goals of the half for a 10-1 advantage.
Midway through the third quarter Bailey emptied his bench. Junior Kampbell Gritsch and sophomore Shannon Frome scored second-half goals for the Sea Kings. Freshman goalie Heidi Ritner made two saves, including one on a five-meter penalty shot. Ritner added three steals after subbing in for Erica Weed (three saves).
“We moved up seven junior varsity athletes, some of whom played varsity at the beginning of the season,” Bailey said. “Our junior varsity, there in the end, tied Irvine’s varsity in the second half. I thought that was really nice.”
Coskinas also scored and Stewart had a steal and two assists for CdM, which will play its first tournament with its full team next weekend at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. CdM is seeded third, behind Foothill and Los Alamitos.
Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor could meet for the third time this season on Friday night, in a TOC quarterfinal at Dos Pueblos High. The Haralabidis sisters said they missed playing against the Sailors the first two times, but now they should get their chance.
They both said they are extremely excited for the rest of the season.
“I really want to win,” Stephania Haralabidis said. “I want us to win CIF really badly. I think Sam and [assistant coaches Brian] Mericle and Erika Figge, we’re becoming better and better with the practices that they give us. We’re becoming faster swimmers, and we’re becoming a family. We all want this.”