CdM, Tars get high seeds

Of the three other seeded boys' water polo teams in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs, top-seeded Corona del Mar High hasn't played two of them.

Coach Barry O'Dea isn't worried about his Sea Kings not having faced second-seeded Villa Park and fourth-seeded Montebello.

"They should be a little more nervous about not having seen CdM," O'Dea said.

The Sea Kings begin their section title defense with a lot of confidence. The goal is to return to the top after O'Dea led CdM to its first section crown under his watch last year.

The Sea Kings (21-6) aren't the only local team with a great shot to make a section final appearance.

Newport Harbor (23-1) is the No. 2 seed in Division I and it has the talent, with Farrel South and goalie Koby Yokota, to make it back to its first title game since 2009. O'Dea, whose team has faced three of the top five teams in Division I, called Newport Harbor the best team the Sea Kings have competed against all year.

Don't be surprised if the Division I and II finales feature these two Back Bay powerhouse programs. In his first year on the job at Newport Harbor, Coach Robert Lynn has the Sailors rolling. Their only loss was to top-seeded Mater Dei.

The other local team in the playoffs is Costa Mesa (19-6), which opens Division III in a wild-card game at Tesoro (13-12) on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Newport Harbor opens first-round play at home Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Sailors get the winner of Tuesday's wild-card game between San Marcos (17-12) and San Clemente (16-10).

The Sea Kings earned a first-round bye. They open in the second round at home Thursday at 5 p.m. against the winner of a first-round matchup between Great Oak of Temucula (16-13) and Long Beach Poly (11-14).

O'Dea said he knows nothing about Great Oak, an at-large entry out of the Southwestern League. The one team CdM played early in the season was Long Beach Poly.

"We played them at the South Coast Tournament. I couldn't tell you what the score was, but we were up at halftime pretty good," said O'Dea, whose team went on to rout the Jackrabbits, 15-4.

"I know the [Long Beach Poly] coach, Scott Penttila. He's a former assistant of mine."

O'Dea said Penttila coached under him at Brea Olinda for three years. Since the two left Brea, O'Dea has gotten the better of Penttila's Jackrabbits.

The Sea Kings expect to meet Long Beach Poly, which earned the Moore League's No. 2 playoff entry. The Moore League's top team, third-seeded Long Beach Wilson (17-10), came close to defeating CdM twice before falling in overtime each time.

Leading the way for CdM was Ben Zepfel. The senior attacker recorded a combined eight goals against Long Beach Wilson.

"He's clearly our leading scorer," O'Dea said of Zepfel, who has 69 goals this year. "We got guys [like Charlie Howarth, Wes Sherburne and Reid Chase] who have around the same amount of goals."

O'Dea needed a balanced attack after CdM lost its starting lineup from last year's championship team to graduation.

O'Dea said the only two current players who received playing time last season were Zepfel and senior Ari Marks. Most remember Zepfel, who produced the game-winning goal in the Sea Kings' 11-10 victory against Murrieta Valley in the section final.

"We have a good shot," O'Dea said of going back-to-back, which would mark the first time CdM has won consecutive section titles since 1999-2001. "We really want to do it."

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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