Battle awaits Sailors

NEWPORT BEACH — One of the first positives for the Santa Margarita High boys' water polo team Tuesday came at the start of the second half.

Eagles senior Chad Naughton won the sprint to start the third quarter. Not usually a big deal, but when your team has been shut out in the first half, the fans in the blue and gold applauded the small victories.

The press defense of host Newport Harbor was, well, impressive, as the Sailors breezed to a 19-4 victory in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

Newport Harbor scored the first 13 goals of the match. Junior Farrel South scored six of his own in just under a half of work, and sophomore Preston Lee had three goals and three steals.

Sophomores Dan Stevens and Curtis Fink each scored twice for Newport Harbor. Senior goalie Chris Whitelegge had 12 saves in three quarters of work, before giving way to junior Koby Yokota in the fourth.

Twelve of those 13 unanswered goals to open the game came in the first half, as Newport Harbor was clicking on offense and defense.

"It's a step," Sailors Coach Jason Lynch said. "We didn't take [Santa Margarita] lightly. We didn't look past them at all."

The third-place team from the Trinity League wasn't too much of a challenge. Lynch knows it only gets tougher for the No. 4-seeded Tars (22-4). Their next playoff opponent is Channel League champion Dos Pueblos, which defeated San Clemente, 18-5, in another first-round match.

The Division I quarterfinal will be at Newport Harbor on Friday, scheduled for a 3:15 p.m. start time, although Lynch said he'd like to start it at 5 p.m. like Wednesday's first-round game.

Lynch knows the names of the stars of No. 5-seeded Dos Pueblos — Kevin Cappon, Chase Racich, Derek Shoemaker. These are the players the Sailors will try to shut down, like they did in a 7-4 victory over the Chargers at the South Coast Tournament in September.

Cappon, Racich and Shoemaker combined for 13 goals against San Clemente.

"I thought our defensive effort in that [South Coast Tournament] game was really good, allowing only four goals," Lynch said. "Offensively, we struggled a little bit, but we're a better offensive team by this point in the season … We're expecting a real strong game from [Dos Pueblos]. They have a solid starting six, and a good goalie. I think a lot of their guys are seniors, so they're going to fight hard."

Another strong defensive effort would go a long way. Santa Margarita (9-21) didn't score until 2:06 remained in the third quarter, when Alex Simmons fed Tony Vuona on a pretty set play out of a timeout.

Andrew Silvers, Ryan Fowler, Benton Carpenter, Trevor McGhie, Andrew Duhoux, Sam Edson and Hank Lee all scored single goals for Newport Harbor.

Lynch said the prototype for how he'd like his team to play was the dominant 14-5 Sunset League victory over Los Alamitos three weeks ago.

"That was a CIF championship performance," Lynch said. "If we can recreate that, we can win the whole thing. I don't think people really understand how well we played in that game."

Preston Lee said the Sailors can take confidence from beating Dos Pueblos earlier this year.

But he expects Friday's contest to be "a battle the whole game."

"That was one of our best games to date, defense-wise," Lee said. "I think we're all pretty confident, but we can't take them lightly."

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