Everybody’s In the Pool

Times Staff Writer

Reduced hours in the swimming pool have not resulted in fewer victories for the Irvine University boys’ water polo team.

For the second consecutive season, the Trojans have been sharing their on-campus aquatics facility with the three other Irvine high schools, Northwood, Woodbridge and Irvine, as renovation work continues at Heritage Park Aquatics Complex.

Though the arrangement has resulted in less practice time for the teams, University has continued to play well. The Trojans are 15-7 heading into crucial Pacific Coast League games against Corona del Mar today and Laguna Beach on Thursday. The game against Laguna Beach was originally scheduled last week, but was postponed because of poor air quality.

Coach John Pendleton said his Trojans have been able to make good use of the shortened training schedule, benefiting from the experience of 11 seniors.

“They already know, even with the short practice, that they are getting a lot of good information in those two hours,” said Pendleton, adding that the other Irvine schools are benefiting from the same type of experience.

University is ranked No. 7 in Southern Section Division I, while Northwood is No. 8 and Irvine is No. 10.

“The reason the Irvine teams are doing well is because they have a lot of returning players,” Pendleton said. “They’re just fine-tuning what they already know.”

University’s top offensive players are David Mock and Brian Song, who Pendleton said account for nearly 90% of the team’s scoring. In a 10-5 victory over Mission Viejo on Saturday, Mock and Song each scored five goals.

On defense, the Trojans are led by goalkeeper Brian Cleeland, who Pendleton said has as many steals as blocks this season. Cleeland is complemented by two-meter guard Clay Stearns.

“Brian really works in tandem with Clay,” Pendleton said. “They do a good job of controlling the set man.”

Pendleton isn’t ready to compare this season’s team to the one that advanced to the Division II final in 2000. That team was led by Ted Peck, who scored 95 goals during his senior year and currently plays for UCLA.

But Pendleton did say that having an extra scorer in the water can throw a bigger wrench in most defenses.

“With Ted, some teams would just key on him,” Pendleton said. “Some games he would barely touch the ball.”

Pendleton said he’s looking forward to having sole use of University’s pool again, but it probably won’t happen until the 2005 season. In the meantime, the coach is taking advantage of the shortened schedule.

“I’m starting to get comfortable coming home early,” he said. “Now, if I can get this practice thing done in two hours, I might just stick with it.”

Crusading Cubs

It’s easy to get overlooked in the Mission League, even if you’re Los Angeles Loyola.

The Cubs compete in the same league as North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake, ranked No. 2 in the Southland by The Times, leaving their chances of winning a league title pretty slim.

But Loyola hasn’t been scared off by the Wolverines, or any other team this season. In two league losses to Harvard-Westlake, the Cubs trailed by only one goal entering the final quarter.

“The second game showed the first one wasn’t a fluke,” said first-year Coach Michael Crosby, who graduated from Harvard in 2000 after a four-year college career.

Loyola (18-6) has victories over Manhattan Beach Mira Costa and Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula, both top Division III teams.

In the North Orange County tournament last weekend, Loyola lost, 19-9, to No. 1 Anaheim Servite, before posting a 10-8 victory over Huntington Beach on Friday. The Cubs followed with a 9-8 loss Saturday to Riverside Poly, followed by a 12-7 victory over San Diego Valhalla.

Crosby said getting the Cubs to improve on their 14-10 record of last season hasn’t been too difficult.

“It seems like Loyola always had good talent,” he said. “They’ve just had more of a tradition in swimming than in water polo.”