Title quest begins

CORONA DEL MAR — There was plenty of talent on the pool deck at Corona del Mar High Thursday afternoon.

Water polo fans there to see the Sea Kings also saw Ryan Bailey, Genai Kerr and John Mann.

Bailey, a U.S. national team member and a former UC Irvine standout, is on the CdM coaching staff. Kerr, a Team USA goalie and former UCI star, was there to work with a youth program, as was Mann, the former CdM standout who is on the U.S. national team.

If people saw Mann up close they would notice he was wearing something the Sea Kings hope to have: a championship ring.

Mann's is from Cal's 2006 national championship team, the year he earned the Peter J. Cutino Award for the national top male collegiate water polo player.

No. 2-seeded CdM started its quest toward a CIF Southern Section Division II title with a resounding 20-7 victory over El Modena.

The Sea Kings will try to get closer to getting their rings with a quarterfinal matchup against Martin Luther King of Riverside. The site will be determined by a coin flip today.

"It's cool having those guys on the deck while we play," said Watson, who scored three goals for the Sea Kings (20-8), who got off to a hot start.

Corona del Mar was up 14-0 at the half and didn't allow a goal until there was 3:53 left in the third quarter.

The Sea Kings were dominant on defense and successful on counterattacks. They scored a variety of ways. Though it was a favorable first-round matchup they played with a sense of urgency and never became complacent.

"They're anxious," CdM Coach Barry O'Dea said. "Their energy level is up. They are pretty focused on the goal and they went after it in the first half here. They are ready to go. They're fired up."

Emery Molnar led the way for CdM, scoring four goals. Hayden Leach matched Watson with three goals, while Miles Carpenter and Chris Robertson scored two goals each. Reid Chase also had two, his first varsity goals coming in the fourth quarter.

Evan Ramsey, Nick Treadaway, Ben Zepfel and Ari Marks had one goal each.

O'Dea said he was impressed with goalie Bruce Bearer's performance. He had eight saves and frustrated El Modena throughout the three quarters he played.

After the game, Mann instructed youth water polo players. He delivered a message that can also be meant for the Sea Kings.

"If you set goals you can get there," Mann said, referring to his success and also championship status.

CdM will do its best to get there.

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