Newport Beach players help Monarchs' historic run

Fans witnessed history Saturday night at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.

That history continues for the Mater Dei High boys' water polo team, which won its third straight CIF Southern Section Division 1 title with a 13-6 victory over Long Beach Wilson in front of an overflowing crowd.

It was the Monarchs' fifth straight CIF title overall, the first two coming in Division 2. They have now won 79 straight matches, which is a Southern Section record.

And Newport Beach residents were at the core of the team, making it happen.

Senior captain Jon Walters, who scored three goals and drew four exclusions in Saturday's match, was one of them. The USC-bound center, who plays on the U.S. youth national team, upped his total for the season to a team-high 126 goals.

Walters, who played for Newport Harbor as a freshman before transferring to Mater Dei, had to sit out his sophomore year of 2010-11. He was ruled ineligible because the transfer was ruled to be athletically motivated. But in the last two years, he went 62-0 in his career with the Monarchs.

Mater Dei (31-0) has rarely been tested this season, but Saturday's match was tied, 5-5, at halftime. Walters helped the Monarchs keep their composure, outscoring the Bruins, 8-1, in the second half.

"In the second half, we just buckled down on the defense and we calmed down," Walters said. "We all had a little bit of jitters in the first half, but we locked it in and we got it done."

Walters' younger brother, James, a junior on Mater Dei, was also a standout with one goal and a match-high six steals. He's also on the junior national team.

"James is like the quarterback on our team," Mater Dei Coach Chris Segesman said. "Defensively, on the counterattack, setting up passes, that's what James is. The great thing about James is that James could be the offensive guy. But James knows what his role was on this team, and he played it perfectly ... James was amazing tonight, under the radar."

Another Newport Beach resident, sophomore attacker Nick Silvers, also had a goal and three steals. Silvers, on the cadet national team, is the younger brother of Newport Harbor senior Andrew Silvers.

Newport resident Carter Yonkers, a senior backup goalie, made a save in the fourth quarter.

Mater Dei junior center Jeff O'Brien, junior defender Neil LeVecke and sophomore attacker Connor Talleur also live in Newport Beach. Senior attacker Stig Terrebonne lives in Costa Mesa.

That's eight players — on a roster of 17 — who live in Newport-Mesa.

"We draw from all over, obviously, but certainly getting kids from Newport is a big deal for us," Segesman said. "Those kids grow up and they're in Junior Lifeguards, and they're water people, you know? They do Junior Guards, they hang out at the beach, they love the pool. When you get kids like that, who love to train and be in the water and love that environment, it makes my job easier. For me, that's been a huge part of our program.

"Plus, they play in the Newport Water Polo Foundation from a young age. So their skills are developed when they get to high school."

Mater Dei has been expected to win every game it has played this year, and the Monarchs did just that. But constantly taking the best shot from other teams can prove tricky.

In September, Newport Harbor was tied with Mater Dei, 4-4, in the fourth quarter of the South Coast Tournament championship match. But Jon Walters scored twice late, lifting the Monarchs, 7-4.

No other game the Monarchs played this year was closer than that three-goal margin. Saturday night's game was tied at 6 late in the third quarter, when Jon Walters drew a five-meter penalty shot. Teammate Kent Inoue converted the chance. Then senior Matthew Cuozzo, who had a game-high four goals, scored off a rebound.

The Monarchs finished strong, scoring five more goals in the fourth quarter.

The Walters brothers, Silvers and the other Newport-Mesa residents on the team were able to celebrate once the final buzzer sounded. They continued the Monarchs' ride through history.

"We had a good season," Jon Walters said. "We were able to bring it together and keep it together, so it worked out."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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