COSTA MESA — Right across the street from campus is how far the Costa Mesa High boys' water polo team traveled for its next game. Coach Justin Taylor joked that he ordered a bus for the trip.
The Mustangs used their legs to get to Orange Coast College to play Sage Hill. Once they got there, it was a walk in the pool for the Mustangs on Wednesday.
Costa Mesa routed the host Lightning, 18-8, to remain undefeated in Orange Coast League play. The next match for the Mustangs won't be as easy.
Next week's league finale will be just that, for the league title against undefeated Laguna Beach. The Mustangs get to close out league in their own pool, an Olympic-sized pool, rather than the small one at OCC.
The gap between Costa Mesa (15-3, 4-0 in league) and Laguna Beach (13-6, 4-0) has been rather large.
"Really, no one has been close to them," Taylor said of the Breakers, who have won the Orange Coast League title every season since the league's inception six years ago. "That's going to be an uphill battle all the way. We are going to need to play beyond ourselves if we want to compete and stay with those guys."
In the first couple of minutes against Sage Hill, the Mustangs had a hard time. They fell behind, 2-0, after Jeremy Dorne and Christopher Wan each scored goals.
Early on the pool's dimensions created problems for Costa Mesa. Taylor warned his team beforehand.
"We're used to playing in big water having our new facility, and we're really not used to playing in small water," Taylor said. "I tried to impress upon them that this was going to have to be an adjustment and a different style of game. We're used to being able to counter, spreading out our offense. This obviously condenses our play and demands more out of our frontcourt."
With a player the size of Wyatt Ferris, the Mustangs began to take control in the second period.
The 6-foot-4 senior quickly produced back-to-back goals and Costa Mesa went into the break ahead, 8-4. When the third period began, the big guy continued to find the back of the net and finished with a match-high eight goals.
Ferris could've topped his career-high 10-goal performance, if it were not for getting others involved. Three teammates, Nick Lewis, Quinn Stone and Deighton Tachiki-Urias, recorded two goals apiece.
Defensively, Tachiki-Urias and the Mustangs shut out Sage Hill's top scoring threat, junior Arya Nakhjavani. An impressive feat considering Nakhjavani led the area last year with 100 goals in just 18 matches.
The Mustangs dropped back, making it difficult for Sage Hill to get the ball into Nakhjavani at the two-meter position. The pool's lack of size didn't help matters for Sage Hill (0-4 in league), which is playing its home games this year at OCC because it doesn't have a pool on campus.
"It's tough commuting here, because a lot of kids that go to Sage Hill, they're from all over Orange County," Sage Hill Coach Tom Norton said. "We practice from 6 to 8 at night. It's definitely a challenge with the high academic standards at Sage, the workload, the demand for the academics, and finding time to get over here and [practice] for two hours.
"I was thinking about [playing Costa Mesa at its pool]. But this is our home pool. These guys have been working out here. Strategy-wise, I don't think it would've mattered. I knew Mesa was a good team."