CdM wakes up after half

CORONA DEL MAR — Corona del Mar High boys' water polo Coach Barry O'Dea has said that he has a deep team.

At one point during the third quarter of Tuesday's Pacific Coast League game against visiting Irvine, he proved it. O'Dea executed a six-for-six substitution, putting in a whole new "line" of Sea Kings.

Common in hockey, a bit less so in water polo. But it was just part of a total team effort for the Sea Kings.

Ten different CdM players scored as the hosts dominated the second half to win, 18-6.

Senior Ben Zepfel and junior Reid Chase scored three goals each. Seniors Charlie Howarth, Ari Marks and Wes Sherburne, along with junior Kyle Trush, scored two goals each. And juniors Jack Harryman, Blake Motal, Colby Watson and Jake Wyatt each found the back of the net once.

Balance like this is not surprising to O'Dea, whose team is looking for its seventh straight league title in his tenure and 13th straight overall.

"My starting lineup is always going to change, depending on who we're playing or what the matchups are," O'Dea said. "I don't think there are a lot of teams that can match us depth-wise."

What is more surprising is that the Sea Kings (7-2, 2-0 in league) continue to start nearly every game slow. Defending CIF Southern Section Division II champion CdM is top-ranked in Division II again, while Irvine (9-5, 0-2) is unranked. But the Vaqueros were in the game the entire first half, and trailed just 7-6 at halftime.

Only a steal and counterattack goal by Trush with 41 seconds left in the half gave the Sea Kings the one-goal lead at halftime. Though Corona del Mar never trailed, Irvine matched it shot for shot.

"[Starting slow] is a problem for us, and we're still working on solving that problem," O'Dea said. "Part of the problem is that we've missed a lot of shots. We're getting a ton of good looks, but we're not burying them early … once we get rolling we're not bad."

Irvine senior Travis Pham, who came into the game third in Orange County with 74 goals scored, kept his team in the game early. He scored four goals and had two steals.

"We just got really tired," Pham said. "We're not too deep. We didn't stick to our assignments, and we didn't help back on drops."

Last year Irvine was second in league. But Vaqueros standout Zack Kamai, who went out with a throat injury during the teams' first league meeting last year and alleged that a CdM player choked him, has graduated. And Pham said current senior Fletcher Norseen, who scored 97 goals for the Vaqueros last year, is currently ineligible.

Yet, in the first half, the Vaqueros had thoughts of pulling off a major upset.

"We just need to come out harder," said Marks, who also had two assists and two steals. "We started to get fired up in the second half, which is not good, but I don't know what to say. We haven't really figured it out. We keep coming out soft and we need to stop doing that … we don't want to catch up. We want to act like the No. 1 team, and show we're the No. 1 team."

CdM did so in the second half, scoring five goals in the third quarter and six more in the fourth as part of an 11-0 half. Senior goalie A.J. Santa Maria finished with six saves, and junior backup Patrick McKenzie had two in the final minutes as well.

The Sea Kings did well on the power play, where they went four of five. Wyatt, a lefty, had a strong overall game with three assists and four steals.

Corona del Mar plays at Woodbridge on Thursday before starting the S&R Sport Cup on Friday. Should the Sea Kings win their first game, they'd have a matchup against either Division II foe Long Beach Wilson, or Northern California power Sacred Heart, in a tournament quarterfinal Friday.

Wilson is currently ranked No.3 in Division II. CdM rallied to defeat the Bruins, 10-7, in overtime on Sept. 20.

"Long Beach and us played three times last year, two tournaments and one regular-season game," O'Dea said. "That's a biggie."

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