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BOYS' WATER POLO

Sailors Looking to Provide a History Lesson

November 21, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

When Newport Harbor plays Foothill Wednesday night for the Southern Section Division I water polo championship at Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach, the Sailors will be trying to regain past glory.

A victory would give them their 11th section title--more than any other team--but their first since 1984. It is their 20th appearance in a final--also more than any other team--but first since 1987.

As the preseason favorite, Newport Harbor has concentrated solely on winning the title, Coach Brian Kreutzkamp said.

"We didn't care about winning tournaments or improving our seeding," Kreutzkamp said. "Everyone else worries about seedings; we just wanted to concentrate on getting our game to the highest level. We have only focused for this stretch run."

Senior Ryan Cook, who scored seven goals in the top-seeded Sailors' 12-6 victory over El Toro in the semifinals Saturday, said the team is well-prepared.

"We are ready," Cook said. "Our coach has prepared us better than any coach I've ever played for."

The Sailor defense has been particularly effective in the playoffs. Against El Toro, Peter Belden, a strong driver who also sets two-meters, sacrificed his scoring to keep a handle on the Chargers' Brett McCleave in the hole. He held McCleave, who finished the season with 148 goals, to two.

On offense it has been all about patience.

In the semifinals, the Sailors (26-5) converted on 12 of 25 shots, five of nine in the second half. After taking a 10-5 lead, they held the ball in the fourth quarter, taking only two shots and scoring on both.

"We don't take stupid shots," Cook said. "We take our time to set things up and look for the open man. If there is nothing there, we'll throw it away rather than risk a counter."

The championship game begins at 7:30 p.m.

PRESSURE COOKER

Foothill had better hope that Cook isn't feeling any pressure in Wednesday's final. The senior lives for the big game.

"He loves these games," Kreutzkamp said. "He wants huge crowds. He wants the pressure."

"I always have good games in this kind of situation," Cook said. "I just get so pumped up. I love it. Wait until the finals."

GIANT KILLERS

Foothill is back in the final after taking a year off.

The Knights won their first title in 1995, but were beaten in the title game by Long Beach Wilson in 1996 and '97.

On Saturday, the Knights got revenge and ended Wilson's four-year hold on the Division I title with an 8-4 victory over the second-seeded Bruins.

Foothill has been on a roll of late, thanks in great part to a strong defense. The Knights have allowed only 13 goals in the playoffs, holding Wilson to four. The Bruins had scored 29 in their first two playoff games.

Goalkeeper Ian Elliott is a large part of the equation, averaging 10 saves a game and keeping offenses off balance.

"We have a great goalie," Foothill Coach Jim Brumm said. "That makes all the difference. If you have a strong man in the goal, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the team."

PACIFIC COAST REMATCH

University's Ted Peck knows that for the third-seeded Trojans to upset top-seeded Corona del Mar in the Division II final, a lot of things will have to change from when the teams met for the Pacific Coast League title.

Peck, who leads the Trojans with 95 goals and 22 steals, was frustrated in that game, trying to fend off two or three Corona del Mar defenders while the rest of the team struggled offensively. The Sea Kings capitalized, scoring eight of their 12 goals on the counterattack.

"The first time we played them we couldn't do anything," Peck said. "We have to keep the game close and stop their counter. If we can do that we have a chance."

The game is at 3:15 p.m. at the Belmont Plaza Pool.

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

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