Bailey, Mann return

COSTA MESA β€” Ryan Bailey and John Mann competed in a pool Friday night in which they swam in back in high school.

Oh, does the facility on the Costa Mesa High campus look much different to both members of the U.S. men's water polo team.

"I remember the old pool when I was in high school they had here," said Bailey, who graduated from Millikan in Long Beach and went on to star at UC Irvine. "It was L shaped and 25 yards. Now, it's a full 50-meter Olympic pool, so this is quite a change."

Mann, a former Corona del Mar High standout, said the Americans have only trained a couple of times in the pool for their first FINA World League Prelims match against Canada.

Mann admired the state-of-the-art pool, calling it beautiful.

The Americans' play was not as striking.

The U.S. was not at full strength. Some players are still in Europe competing professionally. The Americans looked rusty, falling behind by two goals early on before coming back in the second half to win, 8-5.

Chants of "USA! USA!" broke out in the waning seconds. The fans were not as loud in the first half, when the U.S. trailed.

Mann and Bailey helped get the crowd into the match after the U.S. made some noise in the water. Mann and Bailey each scored a goal to tie the game in the third period.

The Americans then went on a 3-0 run in the first 41/2 minutes of the final period to put away the match. It took some work to knock off Canada, which was also without some key players.

"The Canadians are improving," Bailey said. "They're playing with a lot of younger players and I was impressed with their young guys. They were strong and fast and had a will to get in the game and mix it up with us. Canada has a bright future.

"When we get all of our guys back, we'll be better off. For [Friday], it's good to come out with a win, even if we didn't play as well as we'd like to."

Bailey and Mann had quite of bit of support from the fans.

Bailey was an assistant with the CdM boys' water polo team this past season. He helped the Sea Kings win the CIF Southern Section Division II title, their first since 2001.

Mann's mom, Dianna, attended the match, and his father, John, drove from Las Vegas to watch.

Mann's parents had to wait to see the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder with the beard play. Bailey started at center and he took the Americans' first two shots.

Bailey lost his cap two minutes into the opening period after he drew an ejection. Officials stopped the match for a minute until a teammate retrieved the cap, giving Bailey a chance to look into the stands.

"I saw a few of the kids who I coach at CdM and some other kids I give private lessons to," said Bailey, adding that he practically knew all the families and coaches on the deck, which included former Newport Harbor boys' water polo coach Jason Lynch.

"It's always nice to come home and be around people that you know. It's just good to play water polo in Orange County."

Bailey and Mann will get another chance to compete in Costa Mesa. The Americans close out the series against Canada on Sunday at noon.

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