Dan Stevens and his Newport Harbor High water polo teammates are playing in their third straight tournament without their new head coach Robert Lynn.
The latest one is the USA Junior Olympics in Orange County. The four-day tournament gets underway Saturday.
While most of the field in the under-18 boys' championship division is comprised of club teams, Newport Harbor is playing as a high school team under the name Newport Beach Water Polo, Inc. The high school team has done well in the past two tournaments without Lynn, placing third at the California State High School Championships last week and third at the Ironman Super Finals in June.
Stevens understands and respects why Lynn has not been around the program this summer. Lynn is in China with the U.S. men's national team, which missed a chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games after losing to defending Olympic champion Hungary, 9-8, in the quarterfinals of the FINA World Championships. Team USA will have another shot to qualifty for the London Games in the Pan American Games in October.
"We know what he's doing. He's an amazing coach," said Stevens, an incoming junior at Newport Harbor. "We're in good hands with the assistants we have and they know what they're doing."
Assistant Pavle Filipovic leads the team in its opening match against Windy City of Oak Park, Ill. at noon at JSerra. Newport Beach Water Polo, Inc. also has another team at the Junior Olympics, in the under-16 challenge division.
Other locals include Corona del Mar Polo in the under-16 championship division and in the under-14 challenge division. The Newport Water Polo Foundation has teams in the under-14 and under-12 championship divisions and in the under-10 mixed championship division. There is a Newport team in the under-21 championship.
During tournament play, Filipovic has stressed conditioning more than winning since Newport returned from a three-week down period to compete at the California State High School Championships. The second tournament in as many weeks will be a challenge, but Stevens said playing close to home would be convenient.
"Overall, [the tournament allows us] to come together as a team, play together more, get used to the new coaching style and get us prepared for the upcoming season," Stevens said.
"We're looking forward to competing and playing our best."
The team to beat in the tournament is Regency, which is comprised of Mater Dei players. Regency, the top seed in the 48-team field, includes former Newport Harbor standout Jon Walters.
Newport hung with Mater Dei in the semifinals of the California State High School Championships, taking a 4-3 lead at halftime before losing at home to the eventual champion, 8-4. The Sailors went on to defeat Sunset League rival Los Alamitos, 8-2, to finish third.
"I was pretty happy with the result," Stevens said. "I thought we had a good tournament overall."
Stevens and the rest of his teammates are hoping for another strong showing at a tournament without Lynn.