Sailors 'flat' in loss to Loyola

LOS ANGELES — The six-on-five is supposed to be an advantageous situation in water polo.

But it was a weakness Tuesday for the Newport Harbor High boys' water polo team. And the host Loyola Cubs turned their man-down situations into a strength.

The result was the Sailors' first bad loss of the season, an 11-8 setback at John C. Argue Swim Stadium.

Newport Harbor (8-2) certainly had its chances, but failed to convert most of them. The Sailors, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, went just four of 13 on the power play. They also missed a five-meter penalty shot.

The first word Coach Robert Lynn used to describe his mood? Furious.

"The kids are just thinking water polo's easy," Lynn said. "I don't know if they're really ready to go. For example, Loyola came out aggressive. You could tell with the atmosphere, they were charged up, they were celebrating everything they did. Every score they did, they were screaming and celebrating. Every block they did, they were letting us know.

"They were high on their legs and aggressive, and we were not. We were flat. We came out tentative on six-on-five … people treated it as a shooting drill. It's a big difference when you're shooting for a shooting drill, and when you're shooting it in a game."

The Sailors failed to convert their first four six-on-fives in the first quarter, which ended in a 1-1 tie. Loyola (10-3), ranked No. 5 in Division 1, took advantage in the second quarter.

The Cubs got hot, racing to a 7-3 halftime lead. And while the Sailors were largely successful in limiting Loyola senior standout Chancellor Ramirez (one goal), others stepped up.

Cubs senior Jack Grover led all players with four goals, and junior Corbett Kruse scored three times. Loyola senior goalie Liam Lenihan had a standout game with 13 saves.

"Jack stepped up big," said Loyola Coach Erik Healy, whose team avenged a one-goal loss to Newport Harbor in the semifinals of the South Coast Tournament. "I think everybody in the water stepped up big. We didn't have a lot of goals from Chancellor, and we knew that it was going to have to be a team effort … Everybody kind of chipped in a little bit, and that's what it's going to have to take to win this year. It's going to be a six-, seven-, eight-man statement, as opposed to one man."

Newport Harbor did not get closer than three goals in the second half despite the best efforts of senior Preston Lee, who finished with three goals and two assists. Junior center K.J. Kelley, who was called on when senior starter Andrew Silvers got two exclusions in the first quarter, also scored and drew two exclusions.

Senior Curitis Fink scored twice and drew five exclusions for the Sailors. But again, they were largely unable to capitalize.

In two matches against Loyola this year, the Sailors have converted just six of 22 power-play opportunities.

"He did everything today," Lynn said of Lee, a team captain. "Now you just need the rest of the guys to step up and play normal, not play unintelligently. Loyola's a good team; we knew it was going to be a battle here. This whole week's going to be tough for us … I think the guys need to be closer together. If they're going to achieve something this year, they've got to really start to love what they do and get passionate about what they're doing."

Senior Blake Grove and junior Mitchell Mendoza also scored for the Sailors against Loyola. Junior Ryan Warde had a pair of field blocks.

The tough week continues Wednesday, when the Sailors play Los Alamitos, which is ranked No. 4 in Division 1, in their Sunset League opener. The game has been moved to Ocean View High at 7:10 p.m.

"We're going to have to rebound from this," said Lynn, whose team also plays in the S&R; Sport Cup this weekend.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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