COSTA MESA — John Carpenter said before the season that this is the best Estancia High boys' water polo team he's had in at least 20 years.
When you've been a coach at a school for 32 years, you can make a claim like that.
The Eagles are doing their best to prove Carpenter correct.
They showed their skills at their home pool Wednesday afternoon, against cross-town rival Costa Mesa. Estancia dominated, scoring early and often to earn a 16-2 victory that clinches outright second place in the Orange Coast League for the Eagles.
"We talk about it a lot," senior Charlie Umansky, who scored a game-high six goals against Costa Mesa, said of his coach's high regard for the 2010 Eagles. "It kind of makes us feel like we have something to prove. When he says stuff, we have to back it up. It's motivation for us, to make sure he's not just talking a big game. We've got to back up his big game."
The Eagles (16-5, 4-1 in league) did that in spades, beating Costa Mesa (8-16, 0-5) for the second straight year. Prior to last year, Costa Mesa had won the league matchup seven straight times.
Laguna Beach defeated Saddleback, 24-2, on Wednesday. The Breakers, ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division III coaches' poll, win their fifth straight league title. Saddleback finishes third in league.
Estancia's second-place finish is the school's top finish since the league was created in 2006. Carpenter and the Eagles will likely face a second-place team from another league when the Division III playoffs begin in two weeks.
"After we got beat by Laguna [23-7], we knew that [winning] league was out of the question," Umansky said. "But coming into this game, we wanted to show [the Mustangs] that we still run Costa Mesa."
Umansky's teammates had his back Wednesday, keeping Costa Mesa junior goalie Mitchell Grandia busy. Junior Derek Andrews had four goals and three steals for Estancia. Senior Preston Schow had three goals and five steals and senior Matt Thome had a goal and four steals.
"Our main goal for the offense today was patience," Carpenter said. "We wanted to make the extra pass, and in some cases an extra two to three passes. We stretched their defense out and that left our guys wide open … It really makes the defense work, and then we've got guys who can finish."
Costa Mesa couldn't generate much after sophomore Wyatt Ferris surprised the Eagles early, tying the score at 1-1 a minute into the game. Estancia scored 14 straight goals until Mesa junior Jamie Sacco scored from set in the fourth quarter.
Senior Cory Frino had two goals and two steals for Estancia, which had 23 steals. Four of those were by goalie Conner Graham, who had seven saves.
"Our defense was outstanding," Carpenter said. "We've been practicing that all week, our pressing defense and crashing back on the hole [set]. We just played it to perfection."
Ferris was the standout for Mesa, finishing with six steals. Grandia made six saves.
Mustangs Coach Justin Taylor said his team had too many turnovers to expect to be in the game. He expects improvement from his young team next year, though. The Mustangs no longer have to worry about where they're going to practice each day; Costa Mesa's new 50-meter pool opened earlier this month.
Taylor said before the game he has fun coaching against Carpenter, who was coaching Estancia when Taylor played goalie for Mesa in the mid-1990s.
"What can you say about the Estancia guys? " Taylor said. "Those guys are aggressive and they move well. They have a good team this year. They were flat-out the better team and they deserved to win today. We wish them the best of luck in CIF this year."