CIF seedings will be on the line Wednesday night at the Newport Harbor High pool, as well as the outright lead in the race for the Sunset League title.
On a more basic level, though, the 7:10 p.m. showdown between the Newport Harbor and Los Alamitos boys' water polo teams offers the Sailors a chance for redemption.
"We feel that we blew it," Sailors Coach Jason Lynch said of his team's 10-9 overtime loss to the Griffins in the final of the S&R Sport Cup on Oct. 9. "We had the game won and we made some defensive mistakes. We're using [the loss] as motivation, definitely, and we've made some adjustments."
Newport Harbor couldn't hold a 7-4 lead in the fourth quarter of that game. Yet, in some ways, Lynch said the Griffins' comeback puts more of the pressure on them tonight.
"I think it puts a lot of stress on them," Lynch said. "It's, 'Can they beat us again?' "
The Sailors (15-2, 2-0 in league) are ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll, a spot lower than the Griffins (14-4, 2-0). Yet Newport Harbor does come into the game with momentum after Saturday's 6-4 victory over El Toro. The previous day, the Sailors held Laguna Beach, the top-ranked team in Division III, to a single goal in a 10-1 triumph.
The Sailors have won three of the previous four showdowns with Los Alamitos since rejoining the Sunset League, each one effectively deciding the league title, although the Sailors had to forfeit last year's title for using an academically ineligible player. Los Alamitos won the league title in 2008.
There are still two more league games, but tonight's winner would be the prohibitive favorite to win league as well as secure a more favorable seed in the Division I playoffs.
Junior Farrel South leads Newport Harbor with 64 goals, and he tied a season-high with six in the S&R Sport Cup final.
"They're really going to key on Farrel, for sure," Lynch said. "But I think he's looking at that as a challenge, too, like 'No one can stop me.' "
South said last week that he's looking forward to the challenge of playing Los Al again, as well.
"I feel like it's going to be a pretty big battle," South said.
Lynch said sophomore defender Benton Carpenter, returning from a concussion, has been cleared to play. Carpenter earlier tried to return a bit too soon, Lynch said. He had a late steal against Huntington Beach to help seal a 4-3 win, but didn't play against Laguna Beach or El Toro.
Los Alamitos, which has won 10 straight games since falling to Loyola on Sept. 25, is led by Joe Ferretti, Chandler Jarrels and Austin Ringheim. Lynch said Ringheim is more of a third option, but he's a third option who burned the Sailors in the S&R Sport Cup final.
The senior lefty scored a team-high five goals, including the eventual game-winner with nine seconds left in the first overtime.
"We kind of lost track of him in that game, several times," Lynch said.
He doesn't expect it to happen again tonight.