IRVINE — Hayden Leach let a hint of a grin creep over his face when asked about playing a team coached by Andy Coffman.
Two years ago, Coffman was a junior varsity boys' water polo coach at Corona del Mar High. Leach was one of the players on that team.
Now Coffman, who also coaches at his alma mater UC Irvine, is in his second year as head coach at Pacific Coast League foe University. So how did it feel for the former student to beat the teacher?
"I think it's fun," said Leach, now a senior at CdM, after the Sea Kings breezed to a 18-5 victory Tuesday. "It's fun to beat [his] team. He actually taught me a lot of the stuff I do now."
This year in league, the Sea Kings (17-8, 8-0 in league) are the ones doing the schooling. With two league games remaining, they've clinched at least a share of their 12th straight title, and can clinch it outright today at Beckman.
Nine different players scored against University, with Leach and senior Chase Watson each scoring three times. Will Havercroft, Ari Marks, Evan Ramsey, Nick Treadaway and Ben Zepfel each scored twice.
"We're playing well right now," CdM Coach Barry O'Dea said of his team, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division II poll. "I'm real happy with where we're at. We've been talking about peaking in November all season long. We told the guys way back in January that it was all about getting ready for November."
CdM is coming off a successful weekend at the FINIS Memorial Cup in San Jose. The Sea Kings placed third but pushed Mater Dei in the semifinals before beating Long Beach Wilson in the third-place game.
The Bruins had topped CdM twice earlier this season. And even the Mater Dei loss by an 11-8 score didn't seem too bad after some CdM team members watched the Monarchs punish Murrieta Valley — ranked No. 1 in Division II — by a 17-7 count on Monday.
"We've just been playing really consistent," Marks said. "For some reason, it takes us all season to get to where we're really good. Right now, we're at our high point. We're really consistent, we're flowing and everything."
University (15-12, 4-5) didn't offer too much of a challenge. CdM led, 4-1, after a quarter and pushed it to a 10-3 advantage by halftime.
Defensively, the Sea Kings again played well. They held the Trojans scoreless in seven power-play opportunities. Treadaway, one of CdM's main defenders, had three steals and senior goalie Bruce Bearer made eight saves and two steals.
Emery Molnar and Wesley Sherbourne added single goals for CdM. The team didn't ease up, following the last words O'Dea gave them before the game when he told them "No complacency!"
"Our guys are feeling pretty good right now, in just about everything," O'Dea said. "The defense is coming around, Bruce is playing great in the goal, we're countering well. We're doing everything now that we struggled with early in the season."
Leach said the S&R Sport Cup, in which the Sea Kings finished fourth on Oct. 9, was a bit of a turning point. Since then, they've won 10 of 12 matches and their confidence is high heading into the CIF playoffs next week.
"After the S&R Cup we started playing a lot better," Leach said."We became more of a team."
Senior Daniel Brown scored twice for the Trojans on Tuesday, and senior Coleman Pickell added a goal and four steals.
Today's game at Beckman is a rescheduled game from earlier in the season. The Sea Kings then play host to Beckman on Thursday to end their regular season.
CIF brackets will be released at 11 a.m. Sunday.