Girls' Water Polo: Newport, CdM ready for Irvine tourney

There is no shortage of story lines for this weekend's Irvine Southern California Championships girls' water polo tournament.

The three-day, 32-team tournament that begins Thursday offers many teams their last chance for competitive matches before the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Defending tournament champion Newport Harbor is the No. 3 seed in the tournament, and Corona del Mar the No. 4 seed.

But one of the story lines for the Sailors has nothing to do with water polo. Newport Harbor has its winter formal dance Friday night at Knott's Berry Farm.

The Sailors will likely be playing Santa Margarita in a SoCal Championships quarterfinal at 6 p.m. Friday at Irvine's Woollett Aquatics Center.

"I'm always apprehensive to make any predictions," Newport Coach Bill Barnett said. "The winter formal is right in the middle of the tournament, so you never know where the girls will be on Saturday."

The Sailors (16-4) do know where they'll be on Thursday. They play Long Beach Millikan in a first-round match at 3 p.m. at Woollett. Should they win, they'd play either Carlsbad or Harvard-Westlake in a second-round match at 7 p.m.

A potential quarterfinal match against Santa Margarita, the top-ranked team in Division 2, would be the teams' fourth of the season. Newport Harbor is 3-0 against the Eagles so far this year.

Newport Harbor, ranked No. 3 in Division 1, also is waiting on the status of senior-co-captain Carly Christian, who suffered a concussion two weeks ago in practice. Barnett said that Christian, who leads the team with 40 goals, will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

"We'll hope for the best," Barnett said.

While he offered no prediction on his own squad, Barnett did say he thinks Corona del Mar may be ready to make a statement at the Southern California Championships. CdM (16-3) is the top seed at its home pool.

The Sea Kings, ranked No. 4 in Division 1, open their tournament against Cabrillo at 3 p.m. Thursday at CdM. A win, and they would play either Edison or Mira Costa in the second round at 7 p.m. at CdM. A potential quarterfinal matchup Friday night likely would be against Los Alamitos. The teams have played once this year, with CdM winning, 5-4, in a fifth-place semifinal at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

The SoCal Championships are especially valuable for CdM. The Sea Kings look forward to the competition since they aren't challenged in the Pacific Coast League, plus they have to play a double round-robin format in league. Coach Sam Bailey said that in Tuesday's match against Northwood, his team scored on 11 of its first 13 possessions.

Corona del Mar has not had a regular nonleague game since winning the Battle of the Bay on Dec. 21.

"The girls just get no competition outside of practice," Bailey said. "These tournaments are our best opportunity to play the top competition during the season. The girls are working hard, and they're eager for an opportunity to show what we've been working on. I think it's gonna be a fun weekend."

Senior Stephania Haralabidis leads CdM with 36 goals, followed by fellow seniors Ally McCormick and Cassidy Papa with 31 and 30 goals, respectively.

The winners of the season's first two tournaments are the top two seeds in Irvine. Foothill, the Holiday Cup champion, is the top overall seed. Santa Barbara, which won its host Tournament of Champions, is the No. 2 seed.

Tournament semifinals are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Saturday at Woollett, with the championship match at 3 p.m.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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