NEWPORT BEACH — Saturday afternoon marked Jon Walters' first time facing his former team in a high school game.
Walters, now a junior at Mater Dei, transferred from Newport Harbor after his freshman year. He still has friends at Harbor. He and his sophomore brother, James, were on a 14-and-under club team with Sailors juniors Dan Stevens and Curtis Fink that won the Speedo Cup.
In the water, it's a different matter for the Newport Beach resident.
"Personal relationships don't mean anything in the game," said Jon Walters, who was declared ineligible his sophomore year by the CIF Southern Section after the transfer. "We just play water polo. Leave it all in the water."
Walters, a U.S. junior national team player, has come back to the high school arena stronger than ever. The Monarchs as a team certainly looked mighty in the South Coast Tournament championship game at Newport Harbor High.
They scored six unanswered goals in the second quarter and pulled away for a 16-7 victory over the Sailors, winning the tournament for the second straight year.
Mater Dei (11-0), the top-ranked defending CIF Southern Section Division I champion, has done a lot of winning lately. The Monarchs won the Santa Barbara Invitational last weekend and have now notched 28 straight victories, dating back to last October.
The team has several Newport Beach residents, also including Anthony Daboub, Bobby Gordon, Carter Yonkers and Nick Silvers, the younger brother of Sailors junior Andrew Silvers.
"We have a lot of players who played really well," said Jon Walters, who had three goals in the final. "It went well. The counterattack was good, and most of all we shut them down on defense."
That wasn't so much the case early, as the Sailors (7-1), ranked No. 2 in Division I, hung close. Senior Farrel South made sure of it, scoring three times in the opening quarter on rocket shots from outside.
"In the first quarter he was just being a machine," Sailors Coach Robert Lynn said of South, who led the team with four goals.
Newport Harbor was down just 5-4 after a quarter. Suddenly at halftime, it was 11-4. Mater Dei senior Patrick Woepse scored all three of his goals during the second-quarter barrage.
"He established the intensity," Mater Dei Coach Chris Segesman said. "That put Newport on their back … Farrel was shooting the ball well. We slid Jon Walters over there to guard him when we put Woepse in, and Jon did a great job of taking Farrel out and getting him away from that five-meter line. That kind of changed the momentum of the game."
Mater Dei, which never trailed, led by at least five goals for the whole second half. Senior Bret Bonanni, another player Lynn has coached on the junior national team, led all players with five goals and four steals. James Walters and Daboub each scored twice, and sophomore goalie McQuin Baron made 10 saves.
They were the kind of performances that have some people wondering what it will take to beat Mater Dei this year. The Monarchs have won all of their games by at least five goals.
Senior Koby Yokota had seven saves for the Sailors. Junior Preston Lee scored twice, and Stevens added a goal.
"They didn't let off the gas pedal today," Lynn said of Mater Dei, which has had some competitive games with Newport Harbor fairly recently. They include a California State High School Championships semifinal in July that Lynn said the Sailors led, 4-3, at the half. Mater Dei eventually won that match, 8-4.
"I think [the Monarchs] had a point they were trying to prove today," Lynn said. "They came out very intense. I like it. I want [Segesman] to do that. It's just going to fuel our kids. I'm proud of our guys. They made really good strides to come together and bond together … [Mater Dei] is just a really experienced, strong high school team that plays a very strong system."
Newport Harbor reached the championship match after coming from behind for a 10-7 victory over Loyola of Los Angeles in the semifinals. The game was back and forth, but Loyola led, 7-5, early in the fourth quarter before three straight goals from South gave the Sailors an 8-7 edge. South had sat out much of the second and third quarters with two exclusions.
Andrew Silvers and sophomore Mitchell Mendoza scored the final two goals for Newport Harbor. Senior Ryan Fowler led the Sailors with four goals, and Preston Lee had two steals. Yokota made four saves.
Lynn, who has been with the team for about three weeks now, said he sees the Sailors heading in a positive direction.
"We're going to use this [tournament]," he said. "We'll get more focused than ever and give it our all … [Mater Dei] is ahead of the game. You can see the passion those kids are playing with, and that's a lesson for every team."
Huntington Beach defeated Loyola, 18-13, in the tournament third-place game.