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Dornin Has Upper Hand in the Pool

Boys' water polo: Laguna Beach senior is left-handed and has a shot that's difficult to defend.


LAGUNA BEACH — In most sports, a good left-handed athlete can be a gold mine for a team. At Laguna Beach High, Spencer Dornin is the mother lode.

Dornin, 17, a lanky 6-foot-5 senior, is one of the county's best two-meter players. At 198 pounds, he's quick, exceptional on defense and possesses a left-handed shot that's brutal to stop.

His style of play can only be described as an assault, whether on offense or defense. And Dornin's play has been a big factor in Laguna Beach's success.

"There's no doubt that without Spencer, this team wouldn't be where it is today," said Rick Scott, who has coached Dornin since he was a freshman.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 23, 1997 Orange County Edition Special Section Part V Page 3 Sports Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Water polo--In the Prep Extra water polo preview, Garden Grove High should have been listed as the Garden Grove League favorite.

"In all my years coaching, I've never had anyone like Spencer. Besides being left-handed, which is always a plus in this game, he's everything you would want in a player and more," Scott said.

"He can play defense and offense equally well. He's an extremely hard worker and he has a mental toughness that can't be beat. He's a team leader and he wants to win."

Scott, the Times Orange County 1996 water polo coach of the year, also coached Dornin's older brother, Chris, who was an outstanding player for the Artists and now for California.

"I know there are some colleges interested in Spencer. And I believe he's a better player [than Chris]," Scott said. "He's stronger, more physical, and at 6-5 and left-handed. . . . he can go anywhere he wants."

Dornin said he's been contacted by UCLA, Stanford, USC and Pepperdine.

"I think I'm a good player, and being left-handed has been a big help since there aren't that many left-handed players in college," Dornin said.

After an outstanding 1996 junior season that included 107 goals--five in the Southern Section Division II final against El Dorado--and being named to The Times Orange County's first team, Dornin is coming off an equally successful summer.

Dornin, along with Robby Arroyo and Nick Ellis of Foothill and Matt Flesher of Brea Olinda, was selected to play for the U.S. Junior National B team. While on the team, he played with and faced some of the top high school and college players in the world.

"It [Junior National tournament] was an awesome experience," Dornin said. "It was a different play than I'm used to. The European style of play is a lot more physical. But I didn't have a hard time adjusting, and the help I got from other players and playing some of the best in the world. . . . well, let's just say it's a tremendous confidence builder."

Despite the graduation of Grant McGann, who was the Artists' second leading scorer behind Dornin last year, Dornin still thinks his team has a very good chance to win the Division II title. Last season, Laguna Beach lost to El Dorado in the championship final, 15-12.

"Even though we lost Grant, we still have a lot of players coming back," Dornin said. "I'm looking for Tyler Raynard and Evan Lo to pick up the slack. They both matured a lot from last year."

But Dornin has no delusions about blowing through the season. After all, Pacific Coast League rival Costa Mesa is ranked fifth and the Artists eighth in The Times' preseason poll.

"Winning our league will be tough. Costa Mesa wants to win just as much as we do. And they have some excellent players," Dornin said. "But I love playing the tough games. I get pumped up. And I do like to win."

Despite his reputation, there are times when Dornin will be up against someone who isn't aware he's left-handed.

"It's a big surprise when they cover me," Dornin said. "Everything is pretty much geared for the right-handed player as far as defense and offense. So it can be a big advantage when I shoot."

And the goalkeepers?

"A left-handed shooter comes from the exact opposite of what they have been taught [for guarding the goal]. So it can cause some problems for them," Dornin said.



1. Foothill

Once again, Knights will dominate.

2. Capistrano Valley

Will battle for South Coast title.

3. San Clemente

Speed, size and a tough defense.

4. Villa Park

Could give Foothill a challenge.

5. Costa Mesa

Will be ready for Laguna Beach.

6. Newport Harbor

The Sailors will bounce back.

7. Los Alamitos

Return to defend Sunset title.

8. Laguna Beach

Artists want to prove they're for real.

9. Santa Margarita

Will challenge Newport Harbor.

10. Esperanza

Want to reclaim place in the Sunset.


Players to Watch

* Robby Arroyo, Foothill, utility, Sr.

* Kyle Baumgarner, Villa Park, two-meter man, Sr.

* Brett Benson, El Dorado, driver, Sr.

* Chad Cleaver, Costa Mesa, two-meter man, Sr.

* Xander Dean, Capistrano Valley, two-meter man, Sr.

* Spencer Dornin, Laguna Beach, two-meter man, Sr.

* Nick Ellis, Foothill, goalkeeper, Sr.

* Matt Flesher, Brea Olinda, two-meter man, Sr.

* Ivan Hernandez, Santa Ana, two-meter man, Sr.

* Jordan Hewko, San Clemente, utility, Sr.

* Todd Hylton, Costa Mesa, two-meter man, Sr.

* Jeremy Janton, Katella, driver, Sr.

* Matt McPherson, Foothill, driver, Sr.

* Eric Meadows, Capistrano Valley, goalkeeper, Sr.

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