EL TORO — No matter how hard Chris Whitelegge tries he can't block out the painful memory of last year's loss in the CIF Southern Section Division I boys' water polo game.
But to him it isn't so damaging. No, instead it serves as motivation for this season.
When Saturday came and El Toro (16-2) played host to Newport Harbor (15-2), Whitelegge, the Sailors' goalie, chose to block out the Chargers from his cage.
Whitelegge recorded 14 saves and led a relentless defense that shut down the Chargers for a 6-4 nonleague win.
"I thought about it a lot before the game to get myself motivated," Whitelegge said of last year's 11-9 loss to El Toro in the Division I title game. "I reminded the team. I was pumped.
"What was it like to lose [last year]? It was horrible. But it's motivation for all of us."
While the Sailors defense was impressive — holding El Toro to just one goal in the second half — the Tars remained level-headed after their performance. After all, the Chargers' star center Russell Renteria did not play, as he completed his two-match suspension for game ejections.
Nevertheless, Newport Harbor Coach Jason Lynch enjoyed the fact the Sailors shut out Joey Fuentes. The El Toro junior scored six goals to lead the Chargers to a 12-9 win over Corona del Mar Friday.
Against El Toro, senior Davy Jorth scored three goals to lead Newport Harbor, ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll.
Beating the No. 3-ranked team in Division I with sound defense gave the Sailors confidence as they head into their big Sunset League match Wednesday against Los Alamitos, ranked No. 4.
"We're just going to bring everything we have," Jorth said of Wednesday's game at Newport Harbor at 7:10 p.m. "We know we are a better team than them. We're going to be ready to play them this time."
Los Al topped the Sailors, 10-9, in overtime to win the S&R Sport Cup Oct. 9.
But the Tars believe they can beat the Griffins. They also believe they can win the CIF Division I title. Winning Saturday helped, even if it came against an El Toro team without Renteria.
"Obviously our game plan would change with him playing," Lynch said. "I would hope we could contain him to three and it's a ball game. I told [the Sailors] before the game they had to believe in themselves because [the Chargers] believe in themselves."
Lynch also noted that there is no dominant team in Division I, so he wants to have his team playing at its highest level toward this last part of the season to have a chance at the championship.
Whitelegge had a championship-worthy performance.
"He's a force," Lynch said.
Meanwhile, the Sailors' offense struggled, Lynch said. Preston Lee, Dan Stevens and Andrew Duhoux scored one goal each. Newport Harbor's leading scorer Farrel South, who entered averaging four goals per game with 64 goals, was held scoreless.
Junior goalie Garrett Danner led the El Toro defense with seven saves.
Coach Don Stoll said his Chargers were a bit "gassed" from playing Friday and Renteria's absence hurt them. Stoll had to change his substitution patterns.
"Most of the offense is run through him," said Stoll, who is concerned for Renteria.
If Renteria is ejected again for a brutality like he has been twice already, he will miss the rest of the season. Stoll said Renteria had been called for kicking twice, but, "it was not a malicious kick."
"He's on thin ice because we are at the mercy of what the officials want to call," Stoll said.
"The question now is, depending on the officials we have, what do we do? Do we play him a lot or a little? I've never had to coach in a situation like this and I've been coaching for 40 years. The rules are good when you have brutalities, but I don't think it should be written that any ejection you sit. That's what it says in the blue book. It shouldn't be just any ejection."
The Sailors actually want El Toro at full strength, Whitelegge said. They were hoping for that Saturday, but they'll take the win, the senior goalie said.
Newport Harbor 6, El Toro 4
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport 2 – 2 – 2 – 0 — 6
El Toro 2 – 1 – 1 – 0 — 4
NH – Jorth 3, Lee 1, Stevens 1, Duhoux 1. Saves – Whitelegge 14.
ET – Chappell 2, Rude 1, Silcock 1. Saves – Danner 7.