The team that's favored to win the Holiday Cup is also the team that had the longest trip to get there.
It's a nearly 300-mile round trip for Dos Pueblos of Goleta, but it's worth it for the Chargers. They're the top seed for the annual high school girls' water polo tournament, which begins today at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar.
The Chargers, led by Stanford signee Kiley Neushul and ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division I, are coming off an undefeated season last year. They're aiming for their fourth straight CIF title, and third straight in Division I.
First, they'll try to win their second straight Holiday Cup title. It won't be easy, as the always-loaded tournament features eight of the top nine teams in Division I.
The Sea Kings and Sailors might be the teams that have the best chance to stop Dos Pueblos.
Corona del Mar is seeded second overall in the 16-team tournament, and the Sea Kings are the first seed in Group B. The Sea Kings' 1-3 record is misleading, as the three losses have come to the other top teams in the tournament — Dos Pueblos, Santa Barbara and Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.
CdM is led by senior San Diego State signee Maddie Schwartz, as well as juniors Pippa Saunders and sophomore Ally McCormick (eight goals each). The Sea Kings open at 8:30 a.m. today against Rosary at CdM. A win, and the Sea Kings would face either Edison or Santa Margarita in a quarterfinal at 1:55 p.m.
Newport Harbor (4-0) is seeded fourth, and second behind Dos Pueblos in Group A. The Sailors, led by senior Stanford signee Cartherine Carpenter and UCLA goalie commit Sarah Wilkey, face Carlsbad in their opener today at 10:40 a.m. at Newport Harbor. A win and they'll play either Foothill or Huntington Beach in a quarterfinal at 4:05 p.m.
The Sailors could face Dos Pueblos in a tournament semifinal Friday, which would be a rematch of last year's Holiday Cup final and Division I title match, both won by the Chargers. Should CdM reach the semifinals, it would likely face either Santa Barbara or Laguna Beach.
The Dons beat CdM, 7-3, in a nonleague game Dec. 4.
The tournament final is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Friday, at Newport Harbor.