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BOYS' WATER POLO

There's No Easy Way To Win This One

November 14, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

The quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division I playoffs begin today, and if you head to almost any corner of Southern California you can find a match worthy of a championship game.

Parity is what all the coaches have talked about this season. While there is no clear-cut dominant team that everyone fears, they have to be ready for all opponents.

That is more apparent than ever as they head into the quarterfinals, where some of the county's best teams will be sent packing after only two games.

Many coaches agree that since the field is so close, the team that gets hot and stays hot will most likely win a championship.

Right now, that describes top-seeded Newport Harbor (24-5). The Sailors have been on a roll, winning 14 of their last 15 games--their only loss to Coronado was in the Tru-West Memorial tournament in San Jose last month. The Sailors are the only team that is almost assured an easy advancement to the semifinals, hosting L.A. Loyola, which lost to Servite, 13-4, in the North Orange County tournament.

El Toro (17-10), the South Coast League champion, has also played strongly in the second half of the season, and the Chargers are hoping to reach the finals so they can avenge last year's loss to Long Beach Wilson. They will have their hands full with a quarterfinal match against fourth-seeded Villa Park (24-5).

That game pits one of the top two-meter players, El Toro's Brett McCleave, against Spartan goalkeeper Jared Jones, one of the county's best. Villa Park has the experience of a senior-packed roster, while McCleave is the only starter back from last year's team for the Chargers. McCleave set El Toro's single-season scoring record in the first-round game with his 141st goal. The previous mark of 140 was set by Alan Basso in 1994.

In the other half of the bracket, third-seeded Foothill (17-11) plays North-Hollywood Harvard Westlake (18-5) and San Clemente (18-7) takes on second-seed and defending champion Long Beach Wilson (19-4).

Foothill beat Harvard-Westlake, 8-7, earlier this season when Wes Fox scored the game-winner with one second remaining.

San Clemente Coach Marc Parker is pleased with how his team has been playing lately. The Tritons, who are hoping to avenge a loss to the Bruins in the first week of the season, were the top-ranked team in Division I for three weeks, until several losses dropped them down to No. 6. But Pat McCann, who missed the last five regular-season games with a cracked wrist, has returned. He had four goals in the first-round victory over Irvine. Josh Hewko leads the team with 95 goals.

If you have an item or idea for the water polo report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at: melanie.neff@latimes.com

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