Sailors bounce back

NEWPORT BEACH — The second Battle of the Bay in less than 24 hours took place Saturday afternoon at Newport Harbor High.

The attendance was a fraction of what it was the night before, and there was maybe not as much on the line. Still, the result was the same and a good one for the hosts.

Sailors win.

The Newport Harbor High boys' water polo team came out strong just like the football team had Friday night. It enabled the Sailors to outlast Corona del Mar, 9-7, in the third-place game of the South Coast Tournament.

Mater Dei won the tournament by edging El Toro, 11-10.

Newport Harbor (7-1) had a disappointing 10-4 semifinal loss earlier Saturday to the Monarchs, but on Coach Jason Lynch's second day back from a two-week suspension, the Sailors turned to something that was familiar enough — beating CdM.

The Back Bay rivals usually play at least a couple of times a year. In the past six years, Newport Harbor has won all of those games but one.

This time, they did it at least partially for their coach, who was suspended when it was discovered the Sailors used an academically ineligible player last year.

"We wanted to rebound," said sophomore center Dan Stevens, who scored three times against CdM. "We wanted to prove to coach how hard we've been working while he was gone."

Newport Harbor showed him against a CdM (3-4) team that had appeared strong in losing to top-seeded El Toro by just a single goal, 6-5. But the third-place game wasn't as close, as the Sailors came out hot.

Stevens and junior Farrel South both opened the scoring in the first quarter, the latter goal coming when Newport Harbor was awarded a penalty shot on a CdM illegal substitution.

The Sailors ended the first half with a 7-2 lead. South added two more penalty-shot goals, both coming after strong drives by sophomore Curtis Fink earned the fouls.

South had four goals in the game, Stevens three and junior Ryan Fowler two. Davy Jorth and Benton Carpenter each had assists and Andrew Duhoux collected two steals.

"Having our coach back, it really fired us up for this tournament," Stevens said. "It was a really great team effort all the way around."

Corona del Mar rallied in the second half but couldn't get closer than two goals. Wesley Sherburne and Emery Molnar each scored twice to lead CdM, and Coach Barry O'Dea also highlighted the improved play from senior Nick Treadaway, who had a steal.

But Sailors senior goalie Chris Whitelegge was able to snuff plenty of Sea Kings opportunities; he finished with 13 saves.

"We were pretty pumped up for this game against a big rival," Newport's Fowler said. "You know, CdM, Battle of the Bay and all. I think we prepared a lot better for this game than we did the Mater Dei game."

Lynch said his team's best game of the tournament was actually Friday night, when Newport held a dangerous Dos Pueblos team in check in a 7-4 quarterfinal win. But he was happy with the way they closed it out.

"The kids are coming along," Lynch said. "They're young. We've just got to get back to work. That's the biggest thing about this tournament, figuring out what we need to do … The not ideal part is all the practices I wasn't here at. Coaches don't do a lot in games; it's what you do in practice that makes the difference."

Corona del Mar did plenty in practice this week.

The Sea Kings have improved defensively since giving up 28 goals in its first two games. In five games at the South Coast Tournament, Sea Kings opponents never reached double digits on the scoreboard against CdM's defense anchored by senior goalie Bruce Bearer.

"He's come out and made it a point to get back on top of his game," O'Dea said.

CdM was down, 6-3, in the fourth quarter against El Toro, but rallied after two strong moves at set by Chase Watson.

El Toro goalie Garrett Danner snuffed out two CdM chances in the final minutes, though, stopping Watson's backhander then intercepting a pass into the middle.

Like Newport Harbor, CdM will now get back to work.

After all, it is still early season.

"We've worked hard in practice and came together as a team," said Sherburne, a junior. "We're going to keep playing hard and improving, and just working for [the CIF playoffs in] November."

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