Gavin Reed was so excited for his first water polo game in months that he could hardly take it.
The Corona del Mar High junior said he woke up at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning and was unable to go back to sleep. Fifteen hours later, the Sea Kings were set to host Orange Lutheran in their season opener.
Reed’s excitement is easy to understand. He said it was his first game back in five months after recovering from a groin injury.
“To get back in the water and play with all the guys, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for so long,” Reed said. “To get in and play with them was stellar, but to win the game was even better. Just being able to finally make an impact on the team has been something that I’ve been waiting to do for a really long time.”
Any lack of sleep was not shown against Orange Lutheran. Reed, a center who mostly played frosh-soph and junior varsity last season, scored a game-high four goals as the Sea Kings hung on for a 10-9 victory.
Aden Mina and Tanner Pulice both scored twice for the Sea Kings, and both are also juniors. So is goalkeeper Harrison Smith, who made 11 saves, including a key one-on-nobody stuff early in the fourth quarter against Orange Lutheran’s Riley Catino to keep the Sea Kings up by one goal.
Reed did damage on the backhand, which was how he scored three of his four goals. All four of his goals were assisted by Pulice, who struggled with a few offensive fouls early on but contributed five assists and drew two exclusions.
“They’ve been playing together a long time,” CdM coach Kareem Captan said. “The respect among each other, the way they want to work for each other, is really impressive. I love it. Tanner struggled at the beginning, but Tanner’s a really special player and he’ll find ways to get involved. If calls are going a certain direction, he can be effective. He’ll find ways to get his teammates involved because he draws so much attention, and he did that.”
Senior Caden Strauss and junior Tyler Harvey also scored for CdM, which never trailed in the second half after taking a 7-5 halftime lead. But Orange Lutheran (0-1) also never went away.
CdM coach Kareem Captan said he knew the game would be close. It started 30 minutes late, as the frosh-soph game went into overtime and the JV game went into sudden death. CdM won both.
The Lancers were down 9-6 midway through the third quarter after Reed scored his fourth goal, but they rallied. Catino scored a power-play goal, one of his team-best three for Orange Lutheran, then Mason Killian rose and struck from five meters to bring Orange Lutheran within 9-8 after three quarters.
Pulice’s lob goal in transition gave CdM a 10-8 lead with 4:38 left in the fourth quarter. Donnie Robertson scored for the Lancers with 1:39 left, but Smith made a save on Miles Wilson’s shot on Orange Lutheran’s next possession.
CdM senior Cole Fisher got a steal in the final 10 seconds to help ice the game for the Sea Kings. Senior David Batcheller had a team-best three steals for the Sea Kings, and senior Shane Papa had two.
CdM plays host to Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Maybe Reed will be able to sleep better Friday night, with a game like this under his belt.