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In Water Polo, Mira Costa Is Team to Beat : Preps: Defending Ocean League champion Mustangs appear to have the talent to make a run at Division III title.

September 17, 1993|DAN REINES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With South Bay water polo teams jumping back into the pool for the 1993 season, Mira Costa High once again appears to be the front-runner for the Ocean League championship.

The Mustangs, who began their season Thursday in the 32-team Millikan tournament, won the 1992 Ocean title with a 12-0 record (24-6 overall) and reached the semifinals of the Southern Section Division III playoffs before losing to eventual champion Costa Mesa.

"We have some question marks," Mira Costa Coach Mike Nollan said. "But I think the team could be every bit as good as it was last year."

Said Peninsula Coach Jerry Lozano: "I have to concur with that. Mira Costa is the defending league champion, and Coach Nollan always gets his players to play well at the opportune times. I think it's going to be close--I don't think it's going to be one-sided--but I think Mira Costa definitely has the edge."

Perhaps the strongest point in the Mustangs' favor is experience. Three starters return from the 1992 squad, including, most notably, senior Sean Nollan, the coach's son.

Nollan, a second-team Ocean League selection as a junior, figures to lead the Mustangs, along with fellow seniors Paul Barr and Dan Stephenson.

Still, Mira Costa will miss three starters it lost to graduation, including All-Southern Section players David Happy and Eric Hess, now at El Camino College. Hess, an anchor at goalie for the Mustangs, will be particularly hard to replace. His successor is junior Ken Krwinek.

"The major question mark is in the goal right now," Mike Nollan said. "Our No. 1 goalie is a junior, so that's a big question mark. I hope he can do the job, but I guess we'll just have to see."

Peninsula should provide the toughest competition for Mira Costa in the Ocean League. The Panthers were 22-6 in 1992 and lost only two league games--both two-goal losses to the Mustangs.

Despite a senior-dominated squad, Peninsula expects to suffer most from lack of experience. The Panthers lost five of six starters to graduation, most notably Ocean League most valuable player Chris Murin, now at El Camino.

"We've been pretty much depleted because of graduation," Lozano said. "We don't have the game-time experience that Mira Costa does--we're still a young team as far as playing time is concerned."

Senior Doug Keese is Peninsula's only returning starter. Keese and Matt Stoker, a key reserve last season as a junior, figure to lead the team along with senior Mike Moeller.

"(Peninsula's) going to be tough again this year," Mike Nollan said. "We beat them twice last year, but both of them were close games. I'd say that of all the local teams, they certainly rank up there with us."

Chadwick of the Division IV Prep League also looks to be one of the area's top teams. The Dolphins were only 8-11 in 1992, finishing third in their league, but return five starters.

"Things are looking pretty optimistic around here," Chadwick Coach Bryan Weaver said. "We feel rightfully that we should be in the top four in our division this year. Based on the seniors' experience and the talent and the tightness of this group, we're ready to go."

Chadwick is led by seniors Sean Amberg and Greg Miller, and junior goalie Mack Henry. Amberg, who led the team with 58 goals in 1992, scored four goals Tuesday to help the Dolphins improve to 5-1 with an 11-1 victory over Redondo.

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