Tourney to test rivals

Students are in finals this week at Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor High.

For the schools' girls water polo teams, the final big tournament before the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs begins Thursday.

The Irvine Southern California Championships boasts 32 teams, the biggest of the three in-season tournaments. There's still a good chance the Sea Kings and Sailors, the top two ranked teams in Division I, could meet in the finals for the second straight tournament.

Corona del Mar (19-1) is the top overall seed, and will play the first two days at the CdM pool. Second-seeded Newport Harbor (16-4) will play the first two days at the Irvine comp pool, one of two pools at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

CdM opens its tournament at 3 p.m. Thursday at CdM against Cabrillo. A win, and the Sea Kings would play either Warren or Arroyo Grande in the second round at 7 p.m. Thursday.

CdM again has Edison in its group, and could meet the Chargers in a tournament quarterfinal. The Sea Kings beat Edison in the quarterfinals of the Holiday Cup, as well as the first round of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

The Sea Kings won in Santa Barbara on Jan. 14, coming back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat Newport Harbor, 10-8, in the championship match. They are paced in scoring by junior Cassidy Papa, with 54 goals. Princeton-bound senior Diana Murphy, who was the tournament MVP in Santa Barbara, is the team's second-leading scorer.with 46 goals.

Newport Harbor opens its tournament against Laguna Hills at 3 p.m. Thursday, and would play either Carlsbad or San Marcos in the second round at 7 p.m. Wins could set up a tough potential quarterfinal matchup against Dos Pueblos, last year's SoCal tournament champion.

UCLA-bound senior Maddy McLaren leads the well-balanced Sailors with 40 goals, followed by juniors Elissia Schilling (35 goals) and Carly Christian (31).

Los Alamitos is seeded third in the tournament, followed by Foothill, Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach, Dos Pueblos and Edison. If the seedings hold up, CdM would play Foothill for the first time this season in the semifinals, while Newport would play Sunset League rival Los Alamitos for the second time.

The Sailors defeated Los Alamitos, 9-7, in a crucial Sunset League game Jan. 18.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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