CORONA DEL MAR — The Corona del Mar High girls' water polo team was a young team with a first-year coach and a 1-3 record entering the Holiday Cup.
None of these three facts worry Coach San Bailey and the Sea Kings.
They know they're among the elite teams in Division I. On Thursday afternoon, they turned to an old CdM standby — the counterattack — to defeat Santa Margarita, 13-3, in a quarterfinal of the Holiday Cup at CdM.
CdM (3-3) advances to the semifinals, where the Sea Kings will play Laguna Beach at 11:45 a.m. today at Newport Harbor High. Top-seeded defending champion Dos Pueblos plays Foothill in the first semifinal preceding the Sea Kings and Breakers.
The final is scheduled for 4:05 p.m., also at Newport Harbor.
The Sea Kings' relative youth doesn't matter too much when Ally McCormick can counter all day. The lefty and fellow sophomore Cassidy Papa each scored four goals in the quarterfinal win over Santa Margarita, and half of the eight goals were on the counterattack. Most of those came off long, precision passes from CdM junior goalie Alex Musselman (11 saves).
"It's great," McCormick said. "That's definitely one of the things that sets us apart, because not many goalies can throw it three-quarters of the way down the pool. We condition a lot — we're a fast team — and that can make or break the game."
As CdM parents watched the action, they also watched a large sheet covering the CdM boys' aquatics logo on the wall above the scorers' table. They wanted to make sure the sheet didn't blow up on the windy day, revealing graffiti underneath it.
The tagging, which is two explicit phrases, was discovered as the Holiday Cup began Thursday morning. It's unknown when it occurred or who is responsible.
One parent was upset, as she said the painted-on logos cost $1,500 when the pool was renovated.
In the pool, the No. 2-seeded Sea Kings played well. Santa Margarita (3-3) scored the first goal of the game on a power-play strike by freshman Haley Wan, but the Sea Kings had a 3-1 lead by the end of the first quarter as Papa, McCormick and junior Pippa Saunders (penalty shot) all found the back of the net.
By halftime, it was 7-2. Saunders and senior Devon Greenlee each scored twice for the Sea Kings, and junior Diana Murphy added a goal from set.
Former CdM Coach Aaron Chaney is in town and he watched the action on the far sideline. Bailey said Chaney, who stepped down after nine years to move back to Hawaii, remains a big influence on this year's Sea Kings.
"The girls have been working really hard in general, straight across the board," Bailey said. "That's definitely been one of the things that's impressed me. Coach Chaney really helped the girls understand the type of work ethic that it took to be successful. It's a culture that's now a part of this program, and the girls definitely take pride in that."
CdM beat Rosary, 13-9, in its first-round game Thursday morning behind four goals from McCormick and three from Victoria Pierotti.
If the seedings hold up, it will be Dos Pueblos against CdM in this afternoon's final. The Chargers, the defending Division I champions, defeated CdM earlier this year. They've won 44 straight matches dating back to a loss to CdM in February, 2009.