Newport Harbor, the most successful water polo program in Southern Section history, will miss the playoffs for the first time in 30 years.
The Sailors (10-13, 1-3 in the Sea View League) have only two games left and cannot finish better than fourth in league. One at-large bid to the Division I playoffs will be awarded, but a team must have at least a .500 record to be eligible for consideration.
Newport Harbor has won a section-high 10 Division I titles and reached the final seven other times under Barnett. The Sailors haven't missed the playoffs since 1966, Barnett's first season as coach.
The 1996 Sailors sealed their fate Friday and Saturday when they went 1-3 at the Cal State Invitational in Northern California, but Barnett said the team never played to its potential.
"We lost our playoff spot in several games throughout the season," he said. "Games that we had an opportunity to win and we just basically gave away. Of all the games that we had, we have beaten ourselves in every one except three. In one form or another, we always find a way to louse it up."
In a late-season tuneup, Newport Harbor measured itself against some of the top girls' volleyball teams in the state over the weekend in Santa Barbara.
Newport Harbor, ranked 10th in the state Division I rankings, placed fifth in the Tournament of Champions and setter Jennifer Carey was selected to the all-tournament team.
The Sailors beat Las Vegas (Nev.) Durango, 12-15, 15-4, 15-7, 15-5, in the first round before falling to the state's top-ranked team, Bakersfield Centennial, 12-15, 15-8, 15-7, 15-7.
Newport Harbor battled through the consolation bracket, defeating Mountain View St. Francis, ranked fourth in state Division II, 15-5, 15-11, 15-11, and Del Mar Torrey Pines, ranked fifth overall in the state and fourth in Division I, 15-10, 15-3, 15-10.
The Marina girls' volleyball team did what no other team had this season--beat top-ranked Huntington Beach.
The Vikings defeated the Oilers in five games last week behind strong setting from sophomore Ashlee Phillips and 34 kills from her older sister, Lindsay.
But with the victory comes a price: "We have to follow up, I think that's the thing. If we don't play up to that standard then it was just a blue-moon type thing," Marina Coach Darrick Lucero said. "Now, everyone is going to be looking at where we go for the next week so we need to step up."
The Sunset League has come down to the wire. Marina, 5-6 overall and 4-4 in league, is in fourth place but could move into third with victories over Esperanza (9-3, 5-3) on Tuesday and Edison (7-12, 1-7) on Thursday.
In a match for the county's top ranking and probably for the league title, Huntington Beach (15-1, 7-1) will play Fountain Valley (12-2, 7-1) on Tuesday.
Two weeks after being diagnosed with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and cartilage damage, Rancho Alamitos running back Alex Blanco was on the field Friday night for five plays in the Vaqueros' 32-16 victory over Los Amigos that clinched the Garden Grove League title.
"He still has both injuries but the doctor said he can play because he doesn't have any pain in the knee," assistant coach Dean Jacobs said. "We used him mostly as a decoy."
Jacobs said Blanco will play wide receiver the rest of the season.
Two water polo races come down to final games between teams undefeated in league this week. Foothill (22-2), top-ranked in Orange County, hosts No. 2 Villa Park (21-4) Wednesday to decide the Century League title. It will be the first meeting of the season between the teams, which played for the Division I title last season.
Fourth-ranked Laguna Beach (17-4) will host No. 5 Costa Mesa (17-6) for the Pacific Coast League championship Thursday. The Artists, who beat the Mustangs, 10-4, in a tournament earlier in the season, are threatening to stop Costa Mesa's streak of 10 league titles.
Also contributing to this report were Times staff writers Dave McKibben and Wendy Witherspoon.