Boys' Water Polo Dream Team: South did it all for Sailors

Some of the most valuable respect a person can get is from his peers.

As team captain, Newport Harbor High senior Farrel South had that from his Sailors' teammates.

In a broader sense, South had respect from his water polo-playing peers across CIF for his considerable skills. He had some La Cañada players standing behind the announcer's table buzzing during a CIF Southern Section Division I semifinal game Nov. 16 against El Toro.

South had two blistering shots in the fourth quarter, scoring each time to bring the Sailors closer. Those La Cañada players were still taking about that second rocket shot from the right wing minutes later.

Though the Sailors came up a goal short in that game, it wasn't due to lack of effort. And South's efforts this year helped Newport Harbor achieve plenty in Coach Robert Lynn's first year at the helm.

South is the Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year in boys' water polo. The only repeat Dream Team selection from last year showed he was this year's best player after helping Newport Harbor go 25-2 and win the Sunset League.

"Going 25-2, to me, I thought it was a very, very good season," South said. "Even though we couldn't pull it out in the semis, we played our hearts out. I probably wouldn't change anything about the season. I thought we grew stronger, as individuals and as a team. I thought we competed very, very well."

South, who led the team with 85 goals, earned respect elsewhere as well. He was the Sunset League Player of the Year and a first-team All-CIF Division I selection. He helped Newport Harbor win two of three in-season tournaments, the S&R Sport Cup and the Finis Memorial Cup. At the latter tournament he was named MVP.

He showed up in big games, scoring a game-high four goals in a Battle of the Bay win over Corona del Mar. He was a three-year starter, but progressed so much in those three years, despite recently dealing with tendinitis in his shoulder.

"My sophomore year I was a role player," South said. "I was the runt on the team, basically. I was the youngest one on the varsity team. I kind of had to do whatever I was told to do ... I think every year was really rewarding. From my sophomore year until now, I think I've become a better player, a better team player. My offensive skills have gotten a lot better, as well as my defensive skills."

At times this year, South would guard two meters. Nobody on the coaching staff needed to tell him to do so.

"It just kind of happened," South said. "It was just what I needed to do in those games."

He said he wasn't really a "rah rah" type of player. Before games South went off in a corner to stretch, usually just keeping to himself.

But that quiet determination helped Newport Harbor achieve big things, including an 18-game winning streak.

South credited the new coaching staff. Lynn said the Sailors will miss South's leadership.

"He's a great kid," Lynn said. "He was very consistent for us, and he showed a lot of maturity in taking care of his shoulder. He was everything for our team."

Newport Harbor was not the only team to have a big year this year. Corona del Mar came oh so close to repeating as Division II champion, Costa Mesa made the Division III playoffs for the first time in three years and a Sage Hill sophomore showed he has a bright future.

Here's a look at the rest of this year's 12-player Newport-Mesa Dream Team:


Ben Zepfel

Corona del Mar

Zepfel was the man in the middle for the Sea Kings. The senior commanded respect at two meters after leading CdM (24-7) with 81 goals scored. He also had 31 steals, as the Sea Kings won their 13th straight league title and advanced to their second straight CIF Southern Section Division II title match before falling to Long Beach Wilson. He gave leadership to a CdM team where he was the only returning key contributor from 2010.

One of the top two-meter men in Orange County, Zepfel was the Pacific Coast League MVP and a first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division II selection.


James Lewis

Costa Mesa

The senior driver helped the Mustangs (20-7) achieve one of their most successful seasons in years, as Mesa finished third in the Orange Coast League to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs for the first time since 2008. Lewis was second on Costa Mesa with 88 goals scored, which ranked him 18th in program history for a single season. The well-rounded player also led Costa Mesa with 63 assists and also had 49 steals.

Lewis was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection. Coach Justin Taylor said he appreciated Lewis' all-around game as he could set, had a solid outside shot, was speedy on the counterattack and could play defense.


Ryan Fowler

Newport Harbor

Lynn said Fowler, a senior driver, improved as the season went on. He was a reliable scoring option for the Sailors, with 52 goals. He also led Newport Harbor with 31 assists and added 20 steals.

Fowler was a first-team All-Sunset League selection and third-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I.


Arya Nakhjavani

Sage Hill

The sophomore center scored an area-best 100 goals for the Lightning (2-16). In a rebuilding year Nakhjavani still had a season to remember. He scored a season-high 11 goals in a game against Saddleback, which finished second in the Orange Coast League.

Taylor said Nakhjavani, a second-team All-Orange Coast League selection, was one player Costa Mesa had to game-plan to try to stop. That will also be true the next two years.


Ari Marks

Corona del Mar

In the swim season, Marks was a burner in the freestyle. That speed helped the deep Sea Kings' water polo team this fall as well, as Marks was always a threat on the counterattack.

Marks was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection and also first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I. The senior totaled 35 goals, 12 assists and 32 steals.


Mitchell Grandia

Costa Mesa

The Mustangs designed their drop defense around Grandia, confident that he could stop opponents' outside shots. The senior goalie did so all season long for the Mustangs, finishing with 309 saves. That ranked him fourth in program history for a single season, just four behind Scott Neslage's 313 saves in 2006.

Grandia was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection.


Dan Stevens

Newport Harbor

Defender is sometimes a position that doesn't get a lot of credit, but Stevens was consistent all year as a set defender for the Sailors. Coming off a summer playing for Team USA in Puerto Rico, he had 35 goals and 25 steals for the Sailors. He also scored the game-winning goal with 15 seconds left in a big 10-9 nonleague win over El Toro on Oct. 15.

Stevens, a junior, was a first-team All-Sunset League player and also first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I, the only other Sailor besides South to earn the latter honor.


Charlie Howarth

Corona del Mar

The senior came back strong after he didn't play varsity his junior year following a transfer from JSerra. Howarth would sometimes come off the bench for the Sea Kings, but he was always an impact player. He was second on CdM with 41 goals and added a team-best 34 assists and 25 steals.

Howarth was a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection and second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division II.


Curtis Fink

Newport Harbor

The Sailors needed a second scorer to step up after South, and Fink provided that for much of the season. The junior was second on the team with 54 goals, had a team-best 35 steals and also added 23 assists. He was a first-team All-Sunset League selection and second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I.

Fink also came up huge when, fighting off sickness, he scored a career-high six goals in a key 11-9 Sunset League victory over Huntington Beach on Oct. 19.


Reid Chase

Corona del Mar

Coach Barry O'Dea said he sees Chase as a first-team All-CIF player next year for CdM, regardless of whether the Sea Kings are still in Division II or move back up to Division I.

The junior has that kind of potential. He showed it this year for the Sea Kings as well, especially on the defensive end. He had a team-best 49 steals to go along with his 37 goals and 23 assists. The 37 goals tied Chase for third on the team.


Koby Yokota

Newport Harbor

Yokota was in his first year as starting goalie for the Sailors, and he improved throughout the season. He had 215 saves for Newport Harbor on his way to second-team All-Sunset League and second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selections.

One of his best games came when he helped the Sailors win the S&R Sport Cup. Yokota, a senior, had 11 saves as the Sailors topped rival CdM, 9-7, in the final Oct. 8.

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