High Schools: And so they meet again

They will be on opposing sides Saturday in the Battle of the Bay for boys' water polo.

Corona del Mar High seniors Ben Zepfel and Charlie Howarth, as well as Newport Harbor juniors Dan Stevens and Curtis Fink, will be trying to lead their respective high school teams to victory in the rivalry match, at Newport Harbor at 2 p.m.

But before they split sides for high school, the four players were just part of Club Split OC.

They were part of a powerful 14-and-under age group team for the club, now called Orange County Water Polo Club. Also on the team were such current high school standouts as Newport Beach residents Jon and James Walters, now at Mater Dei, as well as Max Merrill and goalie Luke Weiser from Los Alamitos and Eric Silcock from El Toro.

The team was impressive. It won a Speedo Cup title in November, 2006, in Missouri, and finished second the next year. The team took bronze at the Junior Olympics in San Jose in 2007. Though Howarth played in older age group due to his Dec. 31 birthday, much of the core of the team also won the title at the U.S. Club Water Polo Championships in July, 2008.

Zepfel and Stevens will likely be battling at two meters on Saturday, Zepfel as the center and Stevens as the guard. It wasn't always that way; at the time both played two-meter guard. They competed for playing time on Club Split OC, which started with practices at Laguna Hills, Villa Park and Orange high schools before settling in as OCWPC at JSerra.

"We would basically sub for each other when we messed up," Stevens said. "We were competing for the same spot, but it was a healthy competition. [Coach] Peter [Asic] promoted healthy competition."

The Battle of the Bay is a more intense competition. When Newport Harbor defeated CdM, 9-7, in the final of the S&R Sport Cup on Oct. 8, it was a very physical game. But there remains a certain amount of respect in the water.

Not that both players aren't looking for advantages.

"It sort of goes both ways," Zepfel said. "Sometimes I know what he's going to do, but he also knows what I'm going to do. It balances it out … It's just kind of funny. We both started out doing the same thing, and now we're doing the opposite thing."

Zepfel is CdM's leading scorer. He and Howarth will be trying to lead the Sea Kings (15-4) to their third Battle of the Bay triumph in four years.

Stevens and Fink, who have each stepped up to help Newport Harbor (16-1) to big wins over El Toro and Huntington Beach, respectively, will be trying to make the Sailors 2-0 against CdM this year.

"We have the momentum of S&R, and they won it last year," Stevens said. "Both sides have something to prove in this game."


Corona del Mar High graduate Evan Ramsey is excelling as a freshman for the Harvard University men's water polo team.

Ramsey was named the Collegiate Water Polo Assn. Rookie of the Week on Tuesday. He scored a season-high five goals in a 16-7 win over Connecticut College on Saturday and then scored the game-winning goal in a 10-9 victory over Mercyhurst on Sunday.

Ramsey was a Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection after helping CdM win the CIF Southern Section Division II title last year. He has 12 goals and team-highs of 12 assists and 31 steals for the Crimson (6-10).

Harvard also features senior Evan Zepfel, another CdM product who has six goals and nine assists.


The Newport Harbor High boys' and girls' soccer programs will be having a car wash and barbecue fundraiser on Saturday.

The fundraiser will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lighthouse Community Church, at 301 Magnolia Street in Costa Mesa. Hamburgers will be available from The Meat House.

Money raised will go toward new equipment and uniforms.


Twitter: @mjszabo

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