Local high school water polo teams tend to have tempered expectations at the Junior Olympics, going up against other clubs that are basically all-star teams drawing from several different schools.
The Newport Beach Water Polo Club's 18-and-under boys flipped that script at this year's USA Water Polo Junior Olympics.
Newport Beach, made up mostly of Newport Harbor High players, took bronze Tuesday at Stanford University. The locals defeated Foothill, 8-4, in the third-place match. Earlier Monday, they lost to top-seeded Lamorinda, 9-7, in a semifinal match.
Newport Beach was seeded ninth, yet outperformed that seeding by going 6-1 in the four-day tournament. Newport Beach also handed Lamorinda, the eventual champion based in the East Bay Area, its only loss of the tournament in group play.
"It is exciting," said Dan Stevens, an incoming senior defender at Newport Harbor High, in a phone interview. "We've all played together for a long time, and that's beginning to mesh into something great."
Stevens said his fellow incoming Sailors seniors, Andrew Silvers and Curtis Fink, were among the top goal scorers for Newport Beach in the tournament. Senior Preston Lee, a utility player, was team captain and Stevens said senior goalie Wyatt Muller also had a standout tournament.
"He really stepped up," Stevens said of Muller, who played behind graduate Koby Yokota last year.
Other Newport Harbor players on the team included incoming seniors Blake Grove and Henry McNamara, and incoming juniors K. J. Kelly, Mitchell Mendoza, Ryan Warde and Joey Hopf.
Newport Beach also had two players from Long Beach Wilson, Max Irving and Jackson Kimball, incoming seniors who helped Long Beach Wilson win the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title last year.
Newport Beach was coached by Pavle Filipovic. Head coach Robert Lynn is in London as an assistant with the U.S. Olympic men's water polo team, which has won its first two matches.
Stevens said the semifinal with Lamorinda was tough. He was matched against Lamorinda center Davis Klute, who has played with in Olympic Development Program competitions.
"They got an early lead and were able to maintain it throughout the game," Stevens said. "Regardless, I still think we played pretty well."
Newport Beach did not stay down, coming back in the afternoon to beat fifth-seeded Foothill for the second time in the tournament. It continued a strong summer, as the Sailors took second two weeks ago in the California State High School Championships.
"It was really tough losing to Lamorinda the second time, knowing that we beat them earlier in the tournament," Stevens said. "But we really wanted the medal. We really wanted to be on the podium. We matched Foothill's physicality."
Corona del Mar's 18-and-under boys finished 15th after losing to Santa Clara, 12-10, in the 14th-place match at Gunn High in Palo Alto. CdM went 4-4 in the tournament.
Newport Beach's 14-and-under boys won the Gold Division title after defeating CHAWP, 11-9, on Tuesday. Newport Beach went 6-2 in the tournament.
CdM finished 16th in the 12-and-under boys' division, followed by Newport Beach in 17th.
The Junior Olympics begin Thursday on the girls' side.