Girls' Water Polo: CIF-SS Division 1 championship preview (with prediction)

CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game

No. 3 Corona del Mar (26-4) vs. No. 4 Newport Harbor (24-6)

When/where: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine

Key Sea Kings: Sr. utility Stephania Haralabidis (team-high 60 goals, 22 assists, 48 steals); Sr. attacker and co-captain Cassidy Papa (50 goals, team-high 52 assists, 30 steals); Sr. utility Ioanna Haralabidis (43 goals, 17 assists, 29 steals); Sr. attacker Ally McCormick (53 goals, 29 assists, 34 steals); Sr. GK and co-captain Erica Weed (181 saves).

Key Sailors: Sr. attacker and co-captain Carly Christian (team-high 72 goals, 19 assists, team-high 56 steals); Sr. center and co-captain Elissia Schilling (45 goals, 19 assists, 45 steals); Sr. defender Avery Peterson (29 goals, 22 assists, 46 steals); Jr. GK Cleo Harrington (271 saves); Jr. attacker Christina O'Beck (41 goals, 9 assists, 20 steals).

Breakdown: For the second straight year, the rivals' fifth meeting of the season comes in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game … The teams are 2-2 against each other this season, with CdM winning the most recent game, 9-7, in the third-place game of the Irvine Southern California Championships on Feb. 2 … Newport Harbor, the defending CIF champion, rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat CdM, 8-7, in last year's final … The Sailors return four starters from that team, including the UCSB-bound Christian, UCLA-bound Schilling, USC-bound Peterson and Harrington in goal … Newport Harbor, which is in the title match for the third time in four years, can match Foothill with six Division 1 titles with a win Saturday … Corona del Mar is making its fourth Division 1 title game appearance, but has never won CIF since being moved up from Division 2 in 2006-07 … The Sea Kings did win five CIF titles, four of them in Division 2, under former Coach Aaron Chaney … CdM's returning starters from last year's team include the Stanford-bound Papa, senior defender Genevieve Weed and McCormick, who is going to swim at BYU … Harrington has been hot in goal for Newport Harbor in the CIF playoffs but do not discount CdM keeper Erica Weed, who has made double-digit saves in three of CdM's last four games … The Sea Kings have rallied from a two-goal deficit against Los Alamitos in the quarterfinals, and a three-goal deficit against Foothill in the semifinals ... CdM may be missing standout freshman Maddie Musselman (wrist) for the second straight game … Saturday night's game will be streamed online at Greg Mescall and Natalie (Golda) Benson will be the announcers.

Prediction: This should be a very close game. I believe that CdM has a slight edge on overall talent, and the Sea Kings will be hungry after being denied in the finals last year. Of course, Newport Harbor will also be hungry to defend its title. And, after the way the Sailors dismantled Santa Barbara in the first quarter Wednesday, it's hard to pick against them again. It's great that they use it as motivation, but nobody should be calling a team coached by Bill Barnett the underdog at this point of the season. All of that being said, my prediction is …

Corona del Mar 9, Newport Harbor 8

— Matt Szabo

Twitter: @mjszabo

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