Girls' Water Polo: Greek sisters give CdM boost

IRVINE — The first time Corona del Mar High faced Newport Harbor in a girls' water polo match this season, the Haralabidis sisters just sat and watched the rival schools play.

That's all the twins really could do on Dec. 21. They were ineligible to participate after they transferred to CdM from Greece.

They also found out they couldn't sit on CdM's bench during the game.

"It was painful," Stephania said.

"We're like, 'Oh, please! I want to be in there with them,'" Ioanna said.

The Sea Kings still won the Battle of the Bay contest against the Sailors without the Haralabidis sisters. It was then when it hit the twins of how intense the competition was between CdM and Newport Harbor.

Back in Greece, they said they never experienced a rivalry like the one between the Back Bay schools, and they didn't even get to play in the first meeting.

When the seniors sat out the required time, they became eligible at the start of the New Year. They got three cracks at Newport Harbor, splitting the first two.

Looking back, those first two outcomes meant very little. The final match against the Sailors was the most important.

When they moved into teammate Marina Coskinas' home before the season, the Haralabidis didn't know what the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs meant.

They quickly learned the Sailors were the reason why CdM had never won a Division 1 title in two of the Sea Kings' past three section final appearances, including last season.

The Haralabidis sisters can now say they are two reasons why the Sea Kings can finally call themselves Division 1 champions. The sisters helped third-seeded CdM edge the fourth-seeded Sailors, 6-5, in the finals on Saturday at Irvine High.

Stephania, the team's leading goal scorer, didn't find the back of the net, and neither did Ioanna. Their presence attracted the Sailors' attention, allowing others to beat Newport Harbor goalie Cleo Harrington.

Ally McCormick scored four goals, and Cassidy Papa and Coskinas added one apiece. Seeing Coskinas put away the go-ahead goal midway through the fourth quarter on a lob made the Haralabidis sisters proud.

If it wasn't for Coskinas' family, the Haralabidis twins wouldn't be at CdM (27-4).

"They brought us to their house and they took care of us," said Ioanna, adding that the reason why the sisters moved to the U.S. was due to the economic crisis in Greece. "They treated us like their own family. We're so thankful."

The Haralabidis sisters also thanked their mother, Janet.

She attended the title game, along with the sisters' dad, Babis. He's the one who introduced the girls to water polo. Janet is the one who drove the daughters everywhere.

Stephania is the one who drove past the Sailors' defense with less than two minutes left in the first half. On a quick counter, she attacked from the right side and saw a wide-open Papa on the left side. She passed it to Papa, who gave CdM a 3-2 lead, its first.

After going down, 2-0, the Sea Kings scored three straight goals. They added another on a lob shot by McCormick with 64 seconds left before halftime.

The right side, with McCormick and Stephania proved lethal for CdM. The two left-handers gave the Sailors (24-7) trouble.

"When we won it, I didn't believe that we won," Ioanna said. "I was really nervous."

"I don't know what I would've done without my sister," Stephania said. "We can't play without each other."

This won't be the final time the Haralabidis twins play on the same water polo team. They're heading to USC to play the sport.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World