Tourney features possible rivalry clash

Let the games begin.

Four of them in two days, to be exact, for the Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor girls' water polo teams. The annual Holiday Cup the teams co-host begins Friday.

Neither team has played in two weeks, since the memorable Battle of the Bay game won by CdM, 6-5, on Dec. 16. That one was decided in stunning fashion as the Sea Kings' UCLA-bound senior goalie, Alex Musselman, made a full-tank shot at the fourth-quarter buzzer.

As always, the Holiday Cup is stacked. Seven of the top eight teams in CIF Southern Section Division I are participating. But the chances for a Battle of the Bay rematch on New Year's Eve appear good, since CdM (3-0) and Newport Harbor (3-1) are each the top seed in their eight-team group.

The Sea Kings, top-ranked in Division I, open the tournament Friday at 8:30 a.m. against Coronado. A victory would put CdM in a quarterfinal game Friday at 1:55 p.m., against either Edison (ranked No. 8 in Division I) or Long Beach Wilson (No. 7 in Division II).

CdM could face Santa Barbara (No. 4 in Division I) or Laguna Beach (No. 6 in Division I) in a possible tournament semifinal Saturday.

Junior lefty Ally McCormick leads CdM on the young season with eight goals scored, and fellow junior Cassidy Papa (five goals) is another key contributor. Princeton-bound senior center Diana Murphy (four goals) and Cal-bound senior utility Pippa Saunders are also top players in the Sea Kings' attack.

Senior defender Victoria Pierotti, junior defender Genevieve Weed, junior driver Morgan Stewart and sophomore utility Avery Warwick have also made big contributions for CdM.

Newport Harbor, ranked No. 2 in Division I, opens its tournament Friday at 8:30 a.m. against Palos Verdes at Newport Harbor High. Should the Sailors win, they would play either San Diego Section powerhouse Carlsbad, or Santa Margarita (No. 8 in Division II), in a tournament quarterfinal at 1:55 p.m.

Foothill (No. 3 in Division I) or two-time defending tournament champion Dos Pueblos (No. 5 in Division I) are possible semifinal opponents for the Sailors. Newport Harbor upset then-No. 2 Foothill, 13-11, at the Knights' pool on Dec. 9.

UCLA-bound senior utility Maddy McLaren (seven goals), Michigan-bound senior driver Presley Pender and junior driver Carly Christian (six goals each) lead the Sailors' attack. Newport Harbor also features senior utility Paisley Muller and junior center Elissia Schilling (five goals each), along with two other emerging players in junior utility Avery Peterson (six goals) and sophomore goalie Cleo Harrington (30 saves).

Holiday Cup semifinals are 10:40 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Saturday at Newport Harbor High, with the championship game scheduled for 4:05 p.m., also at Newport Harbor.

Corona del Mar last won the Holiday Cup in 2008-09, when it defeated Newport Harbor, 5-3, in the final. The Sailors have not won the Holiday Cup since 2005-06.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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