Newport's counter in midseason form

NEWPORT BEACH — It's an easy call for Jason Lynch.

The team he likes his Newport Harbor High boys' water polo teams to scrimmage resides just on the other side of the Back Bay.

Yes, it's rival Corona del Mar.

"It's great," Lynch said after the teams scrimmaged for five periods Wednesday at Newport Harbor. "Why drive 100 miles, when you can drive one mile and get great training? We're trying to work together more frequently, I think, in the future."

The Sailors didn't have to drive at all for the scrimmage at their home pool. But they spent plenty of time during the game swimming, working their counterattack to unofficially post a 14-9 win.

The varsity teams played for five periods, with junior varsity periods also interspersed throughout the two-hour scrimmage.

At the top of the Newport Harbor scoreboard, it said "Battle of the Bay — the annual classic," but the contest definitely had an early season feel. A couple of Newport parents got on the referee as the white cone representing midpool was actually closer to the CdM side, initially making it easier for the Sea Kings to win sprints.

Newport Harbor, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division I preseason coaches' poll, was unfazed. The Sailors scored the first two goals and never trailed, extending their lead to 5-2 at the second-quarter buzzer when Trevor McGhie scored off Davy Jorth's assist.

CdM pulled to within a single goal early in the fourth period, but Curtis Fink had a goal and an assist to Dan Stevens and the Sailors were back up by a more comfortable lead of 10-7.

Junior Farrel South scored a team-high four goals for the Tars, Stevens scored three and Ryan Fowler had two. Andrew Silvers, Jorth, Fink, McGhie and Andrew Duhoux each had single goals for the Sailors.

Senior goalie Chris Whitelegge anchored the defense, making 17 saves and three steals. Duhoux also had four steals.

"[Our counterattack] was the strongest part of the game, by far," Lynch said. "It's like our trademark here at Newport. We're going to outswim people. We take pride in our conditioning. We need to finish more of them, but we're creating the opportunities, that's for sure."

Seniors Chris Robertson, Chase Watson and Emery Molnar all scored twice for Corona del Mar, ranked No. 2 in the Division II preseason coaches' poll. Ben Zepfel, Evan Ramsey and Kyle Kreunen had one goal each.

Bruce Bearer made six saves for the Sea Kings, and A.J. Santa Maria also had a pair of saves.

"I thought we did some really good things," CdM Coach Barry O'Dea said. "Our counterattack was there, we just need to find the advantages on it. And we need to get back a little bit better on the counter [defense]. That's Newport's big strength. I thought it was pretty well-matched."

O'Dea identified ball control and patience as two areas the Sea Kings need to keep working on.

Newport Harbor has knocked CdM out of the Division I playoffs three times in the last five years, and the teams often meet at one of their three regular-season tournaments. However, since they are now in different divisions, the regular-season Battle of the Bay game scheduled for Oct. 23 at CdM is the only other time the rivals will be guaranteed to play this year.

Both teams expect to be more polished by then. Newport opens its season at home against Foothill at noon Saturday, while CdM also plays Foothill in its season opener Sept. 17.

"It's early season," said Lynch, who lost 14 seniors after the Sailors made the Division I final last fall. "It's going to be a work in progress for a while. We're not going to be good right out of the gate, but we'll get there."

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