Chase Watson went into the Battle of the Bay game on Oct. 23 fired up, just like his teammates on the Corona del Mar High boys' water polo team.
The 6-foot-7 senior center gave a performance to remember, scoring six goals in the Sea Kings' 13-10 victory over Back Bay rival Newport Harbor.
After the season was over, Watson looked back on the big victory that sparked CdM's season. He said he remembered someone else on that special day.
It was his grandfather, Jess, who would have been celebrating his 90th birthday. Jess passed away last year.
"I went to lunch with my grandma the day before," Chase Watson said. "My dad was really emotional the day before."
Chase Watson made all parties proud. He made plenty of people proud in a season that ended with a Pacific Coast League crown and, ultimately, the CIF Southern Section Division II title.
For those accomplishments and his sheer dominance at two meters, Watson is the Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year.
The Pacific Coast League Co-MVP and first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division II selection scored 85 goals. He also came up biggest when it counted, scoring five goals in both the Division II semifinal win over Foothill and the 11-10 championship match victory over Murrieta Valley.
"He was the most dominant offensive player," Coach Barry O'Dea said. "It didn't matter what division we were in. He was the best center in the state, as far as I'm concerned. There's nobody who could guard him one-on-one. Everybody had to to run a zone on him, or else he's going to tear them up on the inside."
The passes back out from two meters opened up shots for the Sea Kings' perimeter players. O'Dea said Watson also improved a lot defensively, as well as with his swimming.
Watson said he was thankful for O'Dea's help as well as assistant coach Ryan Bailey, a three-time Olympican and a former four-time All-American center with UC Irvine.
Watson, a repeat Dream Team selection, came into his own after two-time Dream Team Player of the Year Max Bergeson graduated and went to Cal.
He turned into a beast at two meters. He had a good backhand and plenty of power moves to beat a double-team, and Watson showed those off in the breakthrough game against Newport Harbor.
After each of his five goals, he celebrated, most often pointing both index fingers to the sky.
By the end of the year, Watson made sure the Sea Kings earned that No. 1 status. He helped bring a CIF championship banner to the CdM gym.
"After all of the work in four years of water polo, it's just awesome to end on that note," Watson said.
Here is the rest of the Dream Team.
Newport Harbor, Sr. goalie
Whitelegge was the Sunset League MVP after posting 288 saves, nearly 10 per game for the Sailors (24-5, 5-0 in league).
Coach Jason Lynch considered Whitelegge not just the league's best goalie, but also quite possibly the county's best goalie as well. He built on a strong summer with the U.S. junior national team to help lead Sunset League champion Newport Harbor to the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals.
Whitelegge, a team captain, was also a first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection.
Corona del Mar, Sr. utility
Leach was the Sea Kings' shutdown defender. The first-team All-Pacific Coast League and CIF Southern Section Division II selection proved it in the Division II final, when he held Murrieta Valley senior Eric Van de Mortal to just one goal.
Leach also made a couple of key steals in the final minute of that game to preserve the Sea Kings' 11-10 victory.
He finished the season with 53 goals, second on the Sea Kings, along with 25 assists and 35 steals.
Newport Harbor, Jr. utility
It was scary to think that South was just a junior after he scored a team-high 113 goals. His powerful shot just scared other teams, period.
South, a first-team All-Sunset League and All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection, also posted 14 assists and 53 steals. The Dream Team's lone junior scored at least six goals in 10 different games.
Lynch also used the versatile South as an effective defender at times.
Corona del Mar, Sr. driver
Ramsey was a versatile performer in his senior year for CdM. The first-team All-Pacific Coast League and All-CIF Southern Section Division II selection never lost a quarter-opening sprint all season.
In the championship match win over Murreita Valley, Ramsey's four sprint wins led to four Sea Kings goals.
But Ramsey was also a gifted passer with a high water polo I.Q. He scored 30 goals for the season and also had team-highs of 54 assists and 79 steals.
Newport Harbor, Sr. utility
Duhoux did a little bit of everything for the Sailors and emerged as a top defender.
A first-team All-Sunset League and second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection, Duhoux finished the year with 38 goals, as well as 35 assists and a team-high 55 steals.
He also provided good senior leadership as one of the Sailors' two captains, along with Whitelegge.
Corona del Mar, Sr. goalie
Bearer was very steady and dependable in goal for the Sea Kings on his way to 258 saves.
A gifted passer, he helped spark the Sea Kings' counterattack time after time. The Sea Kings called it "dropping dimes," and the first-team All-Pacific Coast League and All-CIF Southern Section Division II selection did plenty of that.
The team captain also had a season-high 16 saves in the Sea Kings' second win over Irvine, helping them to all but clinch the league title.
Estancia, Sr. utility
In his fourth year on varsity, Umansky finished with an area-best 118 goals.
The three-year starter was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection, and second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division III. Umansky helped lead Estancia (19-7) to its second straight 19-win season, after the team won just seven combined games in his freshman and sophomore years.
The Eagles finished second in league and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, where Umansky scored eight of the team's nine goals in a first-round loss to No. 2-seeded Damien.
This is Umansky's second straight Dream Team selection.