Briefs: Zepfel to Harvard

Corona del Mar High senior Ben Zepfel has committed to play collegiate water polo at Harvard, CdM Coach Barry O'Dea announced in an email Thursday.

Zepfel was the Pacific Coast League MVP last fall for CdM, as well as All-CIF Southern Section Division II first team. He was the Sea Kings' top scorer with 81 goals, helping CdM win league and advance to the Division II championship match for the second straight year. The Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection, a CdM co-captain, also had 31 steals and drew 62 ejections.

Zepfel is a three-year varsity player. He scored the game-winning goal for CdM in the 2010 CIF Divsiion II championship game against Murrieta Valley.

Zepfel, who has a 4.7 grade-point average and will be a class valedictorian, has been considering both Harvard and Stanford since he was admitted to the schools in early October.

"Harvard is Harvard," Zepfel said in the emailed release. "After careful consideration, I concluded that overall, Harvard is the best fit for me as a student, offering me the opportunity to balance my academic and athletic goals. I'm also excited to be on the ground floor of a new era of Harvard water polo under the leadership of Coach Ted Minnis, and honored that he selected me to help put Harvard on the road toward an Eastern championship and hopefully, a berth at NCAAs."

At Harvard, Zepfel will be reunited with CdM graduate Evan Ramsey (class of 2011). The Crimson women's program also features Elise Molnar (class of 2009). Zepfel will also succeed his older brother, Evan (CdM class of 2008), who has played for Harvard and is graduating in May.

— Matt Szabo


Yokota to join Waves

Newport Harbor High senior Koby Yokota has committed to play water polo for Pepperdine University, the Newport Harbor aquatics program announced recently.

Yokota, a goalie, was a second-team All-Sunset League selection and also second-team All-CIF Division I this past fall for the Sailors. He helped Newport Harbor finish 25-2, win the Sunset League and advance to the Division I semifinals. He had 215 saves.

Yokota, who also made the Newport-Mesa Dream Team, is the second local to head to the Waves this year for water polo. CdM senior Charlie Howarth has also signed with Pepperdine.

Pepperdine is currently searching for a head coach, as former head man Jack Kocur was placed on administrative leave last month. Assistant Gary O'Brien is serving as the interim coach.

— Matt Szabo


Thornton sitting out after stroke

Orange Coast College women's basketball coach Mike Thornton is on a leave of absence for the remainder of the season after suffering a stroke.

Thornton said in a first-person account on the Pirates' website that he suffered a stroke while driving to the Pirates' Feb. 4 game at Santa Ana. He coached the game, a 61-53 loss, though he noticed some problems with slurred speech. He was taken to the Saddleback Hospital emergency room later Friday night by his wife, DiAnne.

He said the stroke was a result of high blood pressure and stress and he elected to not coach the remaining games this season in hopes of regaining his health to coach OCC in the future, beginning next season.

Thornton missed Wednesday's Orange Empire Conference loss to Irvine Valley and will miss the Feb. 15 game at Riverside and the Feb. 17 regular-season finale at home against Cypress.

Assistant Coach Steve Popovich is running the team.

Thornton has 509 wins in 23 seasons at OCC.

— Barry Faulkner

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