Boys' Water Polo: Back Bay rematch possible in CIF quarterfinals

The third Battle of the Bay boys' water polo match of the year could go down Saturday.

Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools have to win just one match each to make it happen, the teams learned Sunday when the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff pairings were released.

The Sunset League champion Sailors are the No. 4 seed. They will play host to Servite, the third-place team from the Trinity League, in the first round at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Corona del Mar, the Pacific Coast League champion, is in the No. 5 spot. The Sea Kings will play host to either San Clemente or Long Beach Millikan in the first round, also at 5 p.m. Wednesday. San Clemente and Millikan play in a wild-card match Tuesday.

The other Newport-Mesa team in the playoffs is Costa Mesa. The Mustangs play host to Chaparral of Temecula in a Division 2 wild-card game at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Both Back Bay teams will be favored in the first round, and they would play in the quarterfinals Saturday with victories. They have split two previous meetings this year. Newport took the Battle of the Bay game, 9-7, at CdM on Oct. 20, but the Sea Kings came back for an 11-6 victory in the semifinals of the Finis Memorial Cup a week later in San Jose.

The Sailors hope they have senior defender Dan Stevens available. Stevens ruptured his left eardrum in Saturday's 15-4 nonleague loss to Mater Dei, his father, Doug, said in an email.

The emergency room doctor at Hoag Hospital said the ruptured eardrum should keep Dan Stevens out of the water for four to six weeks, Doug Stevens said. However, he said his son may be able to use a wax plug to keep water out of his ear. The goal is to be back in the water Wednesday for the first CIF game, Doug Stevens said.

Regardless of Dan Stevens' status, the Sailors (20-6) have to regroup from the loss to the Monarchs, who have won a Southern Section-record 75 straight matches.

"We're looking forward to going into CIF," Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn said. "There's no secrets. Us and CdM; it's going to be the Battle of the Bay part three. You know, it's going to be a big one. I think our guys look forward to it. Even if you win that one, the next one is going to be even harder. Your present is that you get [two-time defending champion] Mater Dei [in the semifinals].

Senior Curtis Fink leads Newport Harbor with 51 goals, followed by Stevens with 49. But the Sailors also have received key contributions from juniors Mitch Mendoza (35 goals) and Ryan Warde (31).

CdM Coach Barry O'Dea pushed for the No. 3 seed in Division 1 after his team won the Memorial Cup on Oct. 27. The Sea Kings, ranked No. 6 at the time, beat No. 3 Newport Harbor and No. 4 Long Beach Wilson on the way to the title.

But Wilson came back with a big win over Loyola on Friday. It propelled the Bruins, last year's Division 2 champions, up to the No. 2 seed in Division 1. Loyola dropped a spot to No. 3.

O'Dea said Division 1 is the deepest he's seen it in years. His Sea Kings (21-6), who were Division 2 finalists last year before moving up, will see that depth in the first round. San Clemente would be a particularly dangerous opponent. The Tritons recently scored an impressive South Coast League victory over El Toro, a team that upset Newport Harbor earlier this year.

CdM, led by seniors Reid Chase (76 goals) and Danny Marshall (46), has won seven straight matches. O'Dea said his senior-laden team understands that the playoffs are a four-game run.

"We're kind of on par for the course for what we normally do," O'Dea said. "We want to feel like we're playing our best going into the playoffs, and we've stuck to that model. That model is something that has worked for us in the past."

Costa Mesa (20-6), which finished second in the Orange Coast League, gets a home wild-card playoff game as a reward. Coach Justin Taylor said it is the first home playoff game at Costa Mesa High since at least 2004.

Senior Wyatt Ferris (104 goals), leads the Mustangs. If Mesa can get past Chaparral, the fourth-place team from the Southwest League, it would travel to former Division 3 powerhouse Damien of La Verne for Wednesday's first round.

Damien, the Sierra League champion, lost in the Division 3 final the last two years to Laguna Beach.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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