CdM returns to final

IRVINE — Who coined the phrase, "Third time's the charm?"

For Corona del Mar High, facing Northwood for a third time this year resulted in beating the Timberwolves a third time.

Can you believe Coach Barry O'Dea was nervous about a third matchup with a Pacific Coast League foe? He settled down when CdM took control and won, 9-5, and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II boys' water polo finale for the second straight year.

The Sea Kings are looking to be the kings of the pool again.

The semifinal on Wednesday was just a warm up for CdM. The real business is Saturday.

The Sea Kings (24-6) return to the same pool at Irvine High. The section title match is against third-seeded Long Beach Wilson (20-10).

The two programs have met twice this season. Each contest went into overtime and each time CdM sunk Long Beach Wilson.

Will this be a "Third time's the charm" for the Bruins? They had better hope so because CdM has been unbeatable against Division II opponents this season, never losing a match.

Heck, the Sea Kings have shown how unstoppable they are in the Division II playoffs in the last 12 years. A reporter told O'Dea that CdM went into Wednesday with an 18-0 record in Division II postseason matches since 1999.

Make it 19-0.

Coach Barry O'Dea isn't kidding when he says his CdM squad is balanced. Four Sea Kings produced the team's first goals and they were on their way to burying Northwood (18-12).

With less than two minutes left in the opening period, the Sea Kings led, 4-1. They scored any way they wanted.

Jack Wyatt recorded the first goal on a quick counterattack. Wyatt skipped in a left-handed shot after a long pass.

The second goal came after Charlie Howarth stole the ball near midpool. He did the rest, racing the other way for a breakaway goal.

Ben Zepfel used his might to find the back of the net. He was down low in the middle and knocked in his shot.

Colby Watson flipped his shot on goal and it worked. Sure, he lost his No. 13 cap in the process, but he gave CdM a three-goal lead heading into the second period.

The Sea Kings' attack was too much for the Timberwolves to challenge the defending league and section champions. Three players, Wyatt, Howarth and Ari Marks, finished with two goals apiece for CdM.

The only surprise was that Zepfel, the Sea Kings' leading scorer, only scored once.

"Ben got a lot of shots," O'Dea said of his senior attacker, who O'Dea had down with as many as eight shots. "He usually doesn't miss that much."

Most of the misses belonged to Northwood, which was one goal shy of tying its season-low for goals in a game.

Goalie AJ Santa Maria made eight saves for CdM. He also stopped the Timberwolves from matching their nine-goal average against CdM in the previous two league contests.

"Beating a team three times in row is always going to be hard," Marks said. "They had nothing to lose, so they could be really dangerous. We had to know that in the back of our mind we couldn't treat this as a game we can just roll over. We had to give everything we got, put it all on the table."

The Sea Kings performed well enough to reach their 19th section title match in the program's history. The Sea Kings are 13-5 all-time in section final appearances.

Marks said the road to the big match started in January, two months after CdM claimed the program's first section title in nine years.

As far back as last year, O'Dea said he and Long Beach Wilson Coach Tony Martinho talked about a possible CdM-Laguna Beach Wilson section title match.

"We thought we had a good opportunity to play each other in the finals," O'Dea said. "I think it's good for water polo right now to see CdM and Long Beach [Wilson] playing each other in the finals again.

"It's an old-school CIF final, Long Beach Wilson and CdM."

Playing the Bruins in the section finals hasn't been kind to CdM. The Sea Kings are 0-2, losing to Long Beach Wilson in 2002 and 1994.

Maybe it's "Third time's the charm" for CdM against Long Beach Wilson in the section finale.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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