CORONA DEL MAR — On the day of the season opener against Dos Pueblos, Corona del Mar High girls' water polo Coach Sam Bailey received a text message.
The sender was the man Bailey replaced as CdM coach, Aaron Chaney. The message wished Bailey good luck against Dos Pueblos. It also told him to remind reporters that the Sea Kings — then coached by Chaney — were the last team to beat the Chargers nearly three years ago.
"No pressure, right?" Bailey said, smiling, after Friday's game.
Maybe just a little. CdM still proved it could stop Dos Pueblos' 68-game winning streak after outlasting the Chargers, 10-8, at CdM.
It was the first loss for three-time defending CIF Southern Section Division I champion Dos Pueblos since Feb. 7, 2009, also to CdM in the finals of the Irvine SoCal Tournament. Dos Pueblos, led by now-graduated Kiley Neushul (Stanford) and Tiera Schroeder (Cal), went undefeated the last two seasons.
And, while the Sea Kings continue to respect the Chargers, it surely felt good to end the second-longest girls' water polo streak in Southern Section history. Bell Gardens won 85 straight games from 1998-2001.
"We definitely hold a lot of respect for Dos Pueblos," said CdM senior center Diana Murphy, who had three goals and three steals Tuesday. "The last time they lost was to us, and we wanted the next time to be to us. We wanted to break the streak, for sure, but we just wanted a good way to start the season as well."
Early in the season, CdM (1-0) is the team on top. The Sea Kings are ranked No. 1 in Division I. They return all five of their Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team selections from last year, including Player of the Year Alex Musselman in goal, Murphy, senior Pippa Saunders and juniors Cassidy Papa and Ally McCormick.
McCormick constantly hurt No. 4-ranked Dos Pueblos (1-1) on the counterattack, where the lefty scored all four of her team-high goals in the first half. The goals came on precision passes from Musselman (nine saves), and helped CdM to a 7-3 halftime advantage.
"Every single morning practice we're usually working on our counterattack," McCormick said. "It's definitely something that we're comfortable with."
But Bailey was also impressed with other players on the team, like junior Morgan Stewart. She scored a big six-on-five goal late in the third quarter to extend CdM's lead to 9-6. Then there were the little plays like those made by sophomore Avery Warwick, who somehow got back on defense late in the first quarter to prevent a one-on-nobody shot from Dos Pueblos' Ari St. Oegger.
"Avery's been working her tail off in swim sets, and she showed her speed right there," Bailey said. "It was really great to see. Fortunately for us, I think teams are going to be looking to help off of some of the 'big-name' girls who we've got returning. I think teams are going to be really surprised when they see what some of these other girls are capable of."
Papa had two goals and two steals for CdM, and senior defender Victoria Pierotti also had two steals.
Jamie Neushul led Dos Pueblos with five goals, and Kodi Hill added four steals. Jamie Neushul's last goal came on a six-on-five with just more than a minute left in the game. But the Chargers couldn't get closer, which was not totally upsetting to Coach Chris Parrish after his team lost what he considered the two best players in high school water polo (Kiley Neushul and Schroeder).
"Honestly, I thought we played great," Parrish said. "I thought we did very well on defense in the half-court. Unfortunately, Ally just killed us on the counterattack. She found some mismatches and took advantage of them in transition."
Dos Pueblos, which has been such a powerhouse, remains dangerous.
"All last year, we didn't really like talking about [the streak] that much," Parrish said. "But I talked to them about it this year, and I apologized to them. I said, 'It's really unfortunate that you guys carry this into a season, when it's not necessarily your burden to carry.' For the most part, it's a huge new group coming in. To me, it's great, it's getting the gorilla off my back, and for a couple of the other girls it's the same way.
"For many of them, [like] Jamie and Kodi, it's been a long time since they've been an underdog. I think they're really going to like that, you know?"
Corona del Mar is no longer the underdog. The Sea Kings can start their own winning streak Saturday, when they play host to Santa Barbara, ranked No. 3 in Division I.
"It's just really exciting," McCormick said. "I feel like we've been waiting for this year since junior polo. We've been with each other so long that we kind of know what the other teammate's going to do, and the season's so much fun."