CORONA DEL MAR — This time, the Corona del Mar High boys’ water polo team didn’t need to rally back.
Another Pacific Coast League title appears to be the Sea Kings’ reward.
The Sea Kings took control early Tuesday and went on to a 13-7 victory over visiting Irvine, pushing them closer to their sixth straight league title under Coach Barry O’Dea, and their 12th consecutive overall. They’ve won the league title every year since they joined the PCL in 1999.
CdM (12-7, 6-0 in league) handed second-place Irvine (19-5, 5-2 in league) another loss. Three league games remain for the Sea Kings.
“They’re playing well right now,” O’Dea said. “I think they gained a lot of confidence Saturday night [in a 13-10 Battle of the Bay victory over rival Newport Harbor]. They’re excited; they feel like they’re starting to gel right now.”
CdM shined the most on defense, where senior goalie Bruce Bearer had a season-high 16 saves, including one on a five-meter penalty shot. Hayden Leach held Irvine senior standout Zack Kamai scoreless, and fellow senior Evan Ramsey held Vaqueros junior Fletcher Norseen to just one goal.
“Everyone kept to their assignments,” Ramsey said. “We ran a really hard press, which kind of took them out of their element.”
CdM led 6-2 at halftime and by as much as 11-3 late in the third quarter, after a power move at set by junior Ben Zepfel. For the second straight game, the Sea Kings, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division II, mostly got what they wanted at set. Senior centers Chase Watson and Emery Molnar scored three goals each.
Zepfel and senior Will Havercroft each scored twice for the Sea Kings.
The previous game against No. 8-ranked Irvine, in which CdM rallied for an 11-8 victory on Oct. 7, featured controversy after Kamai alleged he was choked underwater by a CdM player.
Kamai was again frustrated Tuesday, as he said a different CdM player twisted his fingers at set with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter.
“At the end of the game, we were guarding in set and I stole the ball,” Kamai said. “He grabbed my right hand and twisted my three [fingers], my pinky, ring and middle finger. I don’t know if he tried to break [them] or not, but it hurt so much when he did it.”
Kamai shook hands with CdM players after the game with his left hand. His father, Marold, came down from the stands and started talking angrily with O’Dea, then CdM athletic director Don Grable.
O’Dea and Irvine Coach Ray Wong both said they didn’t see the alleged incident. Just like in the previous game, no foul was called.
Kamai said he hopes to get another shot at CdM in the postseason.
“We didn’t put away our counterattack, didn’t put away our penalty shots,” Kamai said. “It was a bad first two quarters for us. Hopefully we’ll see them again in CIF and beat them.”
O’Dea and the Sea Kings are more concerned with their own play, which appears to be steadily improving. They play Woodbridge on Thursday before heading to the Memorial Cup Invitational this weekend in Northern California.
“I thought it was your average water polo game [in terms of physical play],” O’Dea said. “All I know is that we played a good game.”