COSTA MESA — If Harvard-Westlake girls' water polo coach Robert Lynn had his way, his team would be playing in the prestigious Holiday Cup tournament that begins today in Newport Beach.
Lynn believes his team has the credentials as the top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division IV. He tends to know what he's talking about, as a 2000 Olympian in men's water polo and assistant coach on the 2008 United States men's team that took silver in Beijing.
"We were trying to get into the Holiday Cup," Lynn said. "It has the potential to be bigger, but [Newport Harbor Coach Bill] Barnett isn't opening it up."
Lynn instead entered the Wolverines into the inaugural House of Stickers Winter Classic at Costa Mesa High. The host Mustangs took the brunt of that decision Wednesday morning in the rain, on the losing end of a 20-3 score in a tournament semifinal.
Harvard-Westlake went on to win the tournament, defeating La Serna, 13-7, in the final. Costa Mesa took fourth after falling to Aliso Niguel, 10-4, in the third-place game.
Harvard-Westlake (8-0) boasts one of the top two-meter players in the nation in Stanford signee Ashley Grossman. She made the Mustangs (9-8) pay early and often in the semifinal, scoring seven goals. Harvard-Westlake didn't lose much when sophomore Morgan Hallock went into two meters either, as she scored six times.
The Wolverines led, 12-0, before Costa Mesa senior Ashley DeMarzo scored off a foul from the outside midway through the second quarter.
"We just had no effort whatsoever," Mustangs Coach Tim Postiff said. "They just rolled over us. I think we just went in intimidated, and it showed."
DeMarzo scored twice and also drew two Harvard-Westlake ejections.
Mustangs sophomore Kellie Thorsness scored the other goal, while goalies Claudine Le and Alicia Rederscheid combined for six saves.
Postiff was happier after the Aliso Niguel game. Aliso's mascot is also the Wolverines, and Postiff saw his Mustangs scratch and claw back after falling behind, 3-0, in the first quarter to the team ranked No. 10 in Division IV.
Mesa cut its deficit to 4-2 on DeMarzo's cross-cage strike late in the second quarter. But it would be nearly nine minutes before the Mustangs could score again, on Thorsness' goal from set with 5:32 left in the game. By then, Aliso Niguel had built a 7-2 lead and comeback hopes had faded.
It was similar to when the teams played in the season opener Nov. 30.
Aliso Niguel won that game, 11-6, after taking a 7-2 halftime lead.
"We dug ourselves a hole again in the first quarter," Postiff said. "I thought our intensity level was high. We were getting open looks at the goal, we were just unable to finish … We were four of 27 shooting. We hit a lot of bars, and a lot of their goalie."
DeMarzo finished with two goals, and Thorsness and Nicole Tfaye added one each. Senior defender Monica Folkerts made three steals, and Le had five saves.
Aliso senior goalie Eliso Kozarek had 18 saves, and senior Erika Castillo scored a game-high four goals for the Wolverines.
Postiff said if the Mustangs keep up their intensity and play with a little more focus, they can do well at their annual Arroyo Grande tournament trip beginning Thursday.
"I've never been up there," she said. "But from what I've heard, it's really fun and there's a lot of challenging teams up there. I'm excited."